On Wednesday, September 25, 2019, Andrea Anita Hayes-Jordan, MD, FACS, FAAP, was honored with the Byah Thomason Doxey-Sanford Doxey Distinguished Professorship.
The event, which took place at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, was marked by speeches that touched upon the impact and history of the Professorship as well as comments that honored and recognized the late philanthropists Byah Thomason Doxey and Sanford Doxey, Jr., and the remarkable career of Dr. Andrea Hayes-Jordan.
During the event, Cristy P. Page, MD, MPH, Executive Dean of the UNC School of Medicine, expounded on the value of a distinguished professorship and what it means to UNC Surgery and to the recipient. “A Distinguished Professorship,” she explains, “is one of the most prestigious awards that we can bestow on our faculty and is a symbol of the value your colleagues have placed on your research and scholarship, teaching and service. The professorships recognize our past and help us stay focused on the future.”
Anthony Meyer, Chair Emeritus of the UNC Department of Surgery, provided the history of the Byah Thomason Doxey-Sanford Doxey Distinguished Professorship. It was established in 1981 at the UNC School of Medicine by the Doxey family of Fayetteville. Their love for Sanford Doxey’s alma mater and his lifelong friendship and respect for one of its faculty members, Dr. George Johnson, Jr., led the family to establish the professorship. Mr. Doxey was in the “war baby” class of 1943 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a program that allowed male students to attend college for one year before going into the service. Mr. Doxey served in the US Army Air Corps during WWII.
The Byah Thomason Doxey-Sanford Doxey Distinguished Professorship recognizes Dr. Hayes-Jordan’s accomplishments as an outstanding surgeon, teacher, and leader. Dr. Hayes-Jordan is a professor and Chief of the Division of General Pediatric Surgery at UNC. She is recognized as an academic surgeon-scientist, world-renowned for her work in pioneering the cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) for children.
Dr. Hayes-Jordan joined UNC in June 2018 as a Professor with tenure in the Department of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief of the UNC Children’s Hospital. She specializes in refractory and resistant tumors in children, specifically soft tissue sarcomas. Her work with patients with desmoplastic small round cell tumors (DSRCT), a rare sarcoma, has been groundbreaking and innovative, as she was the first surgeon to perform cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC on a pediatric patient. Dr. Hayes-Jordan has treated patients both in the US and overseas, while also traveling extensively to teach the operation to other surgeons.
Dr. Hayes-Jordan has been an investigator on numerous grants, clinical trials, and has received funding from the National Institutes of Health with a focus on rare sarcomas. She has 100 peer-reviewed publications in top-tier journals, 13 book chapters, and has delivered over 130 presentations and invited lectures at regional, national, and international conferences, annual meetings, and symposia. She is currently a member of the editorial board for the National Cancer Institute’s Pediatric Disease Query and in October 2019 was appointed as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board by President Trump.
Dr. Hayes-Jordan decided to pursue a career in surgery during her third year in medical school. But, it was during her fourth-year rotation at Stanford that she fell in love with pediatric surgery. Andrea said, “You realize that when you help a child with any disease, you aren’t just helping one person, you are helping generations. That one child is going to live, and they are going to have kids, and their kids are going to have kids and so on. One life is more than one life in pediatrics, and that is what I love about it.”
The night was special for so many reasons, honoring a woman who has changed the face of pediatric medicine, working tirelessly to advance medical science to save the lives of countless children. In attendance were the Hayes and Jordan family including Dr. Hayes-Jordan’s husband Darin, her son Jonah, mother Delia, and her 100-year-old grandmother Etta. Former and current mentors made the trip, including Dr. Jerry Adu, a pediatric surgeon at UC Davis East Bay during her residency there, whom she describes as her “as her spiritual adviser and mentor.” Also in attendance were pediatric surgeons Dr. Jacob Langer and Dr. Louis Marmon.
Dr. Melina Kibbe, Chair of the Department of Surgery, spoke about Dr. Hayes-Jordan’s many accomplishments, not just as a pediatric surgeon but in her multiple roles as an educator, mentor, researcher, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. She spoke at length about Dr. Hayes-Jordan’s journey to become a physician from her roots in Los Angeles to Dartmouth College where she received her undergraduate degree in religion and then her medical degree. Dr. Kibbe also told the audience of Dr. Hayes-Jordan’s love story with her husband Darin Jordan, a Superbowl champion football player noting, “He orchestrated their first meeting by imploring a flight attendant to move Dr. Hayes-Jordan from coach to first-class to sit next to him. After a great conversation, persistent phone calls from Darin, and a weekend visit, they were married two years later.”
Dr. Hayes-Jordan rounded out the evening by offering thanks to the many people who came to support her and to celebrate this accomplishment with her, including her encouraging and loving family members as well as her mentors. “This is an incredible honor and one I’ve thought about since I decided to enter academic medicine, academic surgery. It feels incredible to be here, accepting this honor. Surreal, in fact.” She also gave thanks to God. “I’ve spent a lot of time praying. God keeps me up; He keeps me strong.”
She related some of the challenges to reach this point in her career, including her match experience. “Three years in a row, I didn’t match in pediatric surgery, and the first year I didn’t match I went to my mentor confused. He said, ‘There are none—there are no black female pediatric surgeons. This is going to be challenging, you’re going to have to want this, and it’s not going to be easy.’ This is 1998, and I was shocked. I never intended to be in that space but ended up there.”
She explained how the pediatric HIPEC was something she was stirred to do by patients. “I had a patient who was 12 years old at St. Jude, and as a fellow, I was given the task of going out to tell the mom that the child was inoperable. It was a horrible thing to have to do, and as a surgeon, I like to fix things. When I looked it up in the library I could only find two articles on it. I just kept persisting and saying this has to be possible. There were quite a few obstacles in the way. I learned a lot. I appreciate all the people at MD Anderson that helped me and all the people who were against me.”
She concluded her remarks by thanking her team, faculty, staff, and nurse practitioners who support her in the joint fight to save children’s lives.
Dr. Kibbe’s final comments summed up the wonderful celebration of the Doxey Professorship and Dr. Hayes-Jordan’s accomplishments: “Andrea’s life motto is ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.’ We are so thankful for that strength, for her perseverance, for her contributions, and for her presence here today as part of our UNC family. I am confident that the Doxeys would be proud of Andrea and happy that their legacy continues to be strong.”