May 27, 2020

Forbes named new chief of Division of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation

Rachel Forbes, MD, MBA, associate professor of Surgery, has been appointed chief of the Division of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation in the Department of Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, effective June 1.

David Shaffer, MD, and Rachel Forbes, MD
David Shaffer, MD, and Rachel Forbes, MD

Rachel Forbes, MD, MBA, associate professor of Surgery, has been appointed chief of the Division of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation in the Department of Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, effective June 1.

Forbes, who has served as the division’s associate chief since January 2019, succeeds David Shaffer, MD, professor of Surgery, who has served as the division’s leader since 2001.

Shaffer will remain on the faculty continuing his clinical duties, including kidney transplants, dialysis access, outpatient clinic and on-call rotation. He will also continue his clinical research related to novel immunosuppression strategies to minimize risk and improve post-transplant outcomes

“We’re thrilled to have Dr. Forbes take on this leadership role in the Section of Surgical Sciences,” said Seth Karp, MD, H. William Scott Jr. Professor, chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences and director of the Transplant Center. “During her time here, she has established a reputation as an outstanding clinician, respected educator, efficient administrator and innovative clinical researcher.  She is one of the best technical surgeons I have ever seen. She is part of a growing roster of extraordinary women in leadership roles in the surgical arena at VUMC, and I look forward to working with her.”

“I want to also acknowledge the remarkable contributions of Dr. Shaffer during his nearly two decades as chief of Division of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation,” Karp said. “Dr. Shaffer is the consummate surgeon and resident educator. He built a program nationally known for innovation and outstanding outcomes.  In addition, he has driven enormous growth in kidney transplant at Vanderbilt from 69 transplants in 2001 to 268 in 2019. His vision, leadership and dedication are displayed not only in these remarkable numbers, but also in the quality of care provided by the kidney transplant team.”

“I am excited to work with Dr. Rachel Forbes as the new division chief of Kidney and Pancreas transplantation,” said Carmen Solórzano, MD, John L. Sawyers Chair in Surgical Sciences, professor and chair of the Department of Surgery. “She is a highly intelligent, technically gifted surgeon and educator who has innovative research ideas that will move the field forward. I met Dr. Forbes approximately 10 years ago when she was one of our chief surgical residents, and it has been so rewarding to see her develop into an excellent surgeon leader who I am sure will continue to be an example for so many.”

The kidney transplant program is the Vanderbilt Transplant Center’s longest-tenured program, dating back 57 years. Vanderbilt performed its first kidney transplant on Oct. 3, 1962, which was the first organ transplant in Nashville and one of the first in the South. Under Shaffer’s watch, the center celebrated the milestone of its 6,000th kidney transplant in October 2019.

Forbes, who was mentored by Shaffer to step into the chief’s role, is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she completed both her undergraduate and medical degrees. She completed a general surgery residency at VUMC and transplant and surgical critical care fellowships at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus. She also earned an executive master’s of business administration at OSU’s Fisher College of Business before joining VUMC’s Division of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation in 2013.

Since December 2016, Forbes has served as surgical director of the Living Kidney Donor Program, where she has been instrumental in reorganizing and streamlining the donor evaluation workflow, resulting in a significant increase in living donor transplants. She has also led VUMC’s paired donor exchange program since 2013, leading to additional living donor transplants.

Forbes has active clinical research collaborations with Vanderbilt nephrologists including the development of an artificial kidney with William Fissell IV, MD, associate professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering; and research related to the APOL1 gene and kidney transplantation outcomes with Kelly Birdwell, MD, MSCI, assistant professor of Medicine.

Active in surgical education with residents, Forbes received the Chair’s Faculty Excellence in Teaching award in both 2018 and 2019. She also works closely with transplant fellows, serving as associate program director for the transplant and hepatobiliary surgery fellowship.

Forbes serves as a journal reviewer for the American Journal of Transplantation, Clinical Transplantation, the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, Progress in Transplantation and PLOS ONE. She has been published in numerous journals including JAMA Internal Medicine, the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition and the Journal of Nephrology.

She is board certified in General Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, the American Society of Nephrology, the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association, and the Association of Women Surgeons. She is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.