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University of Iowa News Release


April 20, 2007

Shilyansky Named To Soper Chair In Pediatric Surgery

Joel Shilyansky, M.D., associate professor of surgery and director of the Division of Pediatric Surgery at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, has been appointed to the Robert and Hélène Soper Endowed Chair in Pediatric Surgery.

The Soper Chair, the first endowed chair in the UI Department of Surgery, was created in 1998 with gifts made through the UI Foundation. The chair honors Robert and Hélène Soper and supports the academic pursuits of a UI faculty member who has a distinguished program in pediatric surgery. Robert Soper, M.D., a UI professor emeritus of surgery, is considered the founding father of pediatric surgery at the UI and he helped establish the specialty in Iowa and the United States.

Shilyansky provides pediatric surgical care at UI Children's Hospital. He is nationally recognized for his accomplishments in pediatric surgery. Shilyansky's research focuses on the immune response in pediatric cancer patients. Specifically, he is investigating how cancers avoid destruction by the immune system with the aim of developing vaccines that can induce anti-cancer immunity and cancer regression. He joined the UI faculty in 2007 from the Department of Surgery at Medical College of Wisconsin and the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

"Dr. Shilyansky is an accomplished surgeon, dedicated to the care of his patients, and an innovative researcher with a strong commitment to teaching and mentoring. These are exactly the qualities that the Soper Chair aims to honor and support," said Ronald Weigel, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor and head of surgery. "Joel's contributions to our department will ensure that we continue to provide the very best surgical care to children from Iowa and around the world."

Shilyansky earned a medical degree from the University of California at Los Angeles. He did one year of surgical internship and two years of a general surgery residency at the University of Michigan Medical Center before completing a two-year fellowship in surgical oncology at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. Shilyansky subsequently returned to University of Michigan to complete the remaining two years of his residency in general surgery, serving as chief resident during his final year. He then completed a pediatric surgery fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Shilyansky is board certified in both general and pediatric surgery. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Robert Soper, a native Iowan, received a bachelor's degree from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon and a medical degree from the UI. Hélène Soper also received a bachelor's degree, in music, from Cornell College. Robert Soper's career in the UI Department of Surgery spanned almost 40 years (1960-1997). When he joined the UI, he was the only physician in Iowa specifically trained in pediatric surgery, and he established the UI's Division of Pediatric Surgery. Soper also influenced the world of medicine beyond Iowa. He was a founding member of the American Pediatric Surgical Association; he lectured and taught throughout the world; and he published hundreds of research papers, book chapters and abstracts related to his research. In 2006, Soper received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the UI Carver College of Medicine.

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the foundation, visit its web site at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917

PHOTO: A photo of Dr. Shilyansky is available from Jennifer Brown, at