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Wendell Yarbrough, MD
Wendell Yarbrough, MD

Wendell Yarbrough, MD, MMHC, has been named Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, effective September 17, 2018. Harold C. Pillsbury, MD, Thomas J. Dark Distinguished Professor of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, announced last year that he would step down from his position as Chair after 17 years in the role.

Yarbrough currently serves as Section Chief of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, Director of the Head & Neck Disease Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital, and Co-Director of the Virus and Other Infection-Associated Cancers (VOIC) Program in the Yale Cancer Center.

“I am so excited to come back to UNC where I have many fond memories,” Yarbrough said. “I am also excited by the great opportunity to lead the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and look forward to collaborating with many great researchers in the School of Medicine and in the Lineberger Cancer Center.”

Yarbrough first came to the University of North Carolina as a Morehead Scholar. He went on to complete his medical school, residency, and fellowship training at UNC before joining the faculty as an associate professor with dual appointments in the departments of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and Genetics and Molecular Biology. During his time at UNC, he was awarded a Jefferson Pilot Fellowship in Academic Medicine.

Yarbrough left UNC in 2003 to join the faculty at Vanderbilt University, eventually rising to the position of Barry and Amy Baker Chair in Laryngeal, Head and Neck Research. He has served in his current roles at Yale since 2012.

“Dr. Yarbrough brings a wealth of clinical expertise and a proven track record of leadership with him to this position and we are excited to welcome him back to Chapel Hill,” said Wesley Burks, MD, Executive Dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “I would also like to thank Dr. Pillsbury for his years of leadership and tireless work creating a nationally recognized department of Otolaryngology.”

Yarbrough is an international authority on head and neck cancer, with particular expertise in HPV-associated malignancies. He has served on the Head and Neck Steering Committee of the NIH’s National Clinical Trials Network, delivered numerous lectures both domestically and abroad, and serves as Editor of the journals Cancers of the Head and Neck, and Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology.

His research lab focuses on identifying novel targets for therapy in head and neck as well as salivary cancers. The goal of his translational work is to improve outcomes for patients with head & neck and salivary cancers through the development of new therapies. He has recently focused on molecular defects in HPV-associated head and neck cancer as a target for therapeutics. Recently, work from Dr. Yarbrough’s lab has led initiation of two clinical trials testing novel agents for the treatment of this cancer. “Seeing our research translated into trials to advance care for patients is such a thrill and is the ultimate goal of our research, “said Dr. Yarbrough.