December 16, 2021

Ward named Dermatology’s vice chair of Basic Research

Nicole Ward, PhD, has joined Vanderbilt as professor and vice-chair of Basic Research in the Department of Dermatology, effective Jan. 15, 2021.


by Paul Govern

Nicole Ward, PhD

Nicole Ward, PhD, professor of Nutrition, Dermatology and Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is joining Vanderbilt University Medical Center as professor and vice-chair of Basic Research in the Department of Dermatology, effective Jan. 15, 2021.

“Nicole is indisputably an international leader in investigative dermatology, and more specifically in the immunopathology of complex inflammatory skin diseases and in how skin-initiated inflammation can be a mediator of distant organ injury and co-morbid disease,” said Meg Chren, MD, professor and chair of Dermatology. “As we seek to grow our department’s basic research program, we’re thrilled to welcome her to VUMC and to this vital role in the Department of Dermatology.”

Formerly a division of the Department of Medicine, Dermatology became a freestanding department in 2018.

“We in the new department share a vision of achieving national leadership in dermatological research,” Chren said, “building on the extraordinary investigative environment at VUMC and Vanderbilt. And to reach this vision, we sought a research leader who is not only an exceptionally accomplished scientist but a builder. Nicole fits this bill to a T.

“We are grateful to many investigators at VUMC who, generous with their time and attention, met with Nicole and helped her realize the rich environment in which she could work and build here, especially Drs. Jennifer Pietenpol, Eric Skaar, Jeff Rathmell, Elizabeth Phillips and Simon Mallal, among others.”

With several current projects supported by the National Institutes of Health, Ward’s research is focused on identifying the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying inflammatory skin disease and its associated co-morbidities — cardiovascular disease, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, depression.

She serves as secretary and treasurer of the Society for Investigative Dermatology, and is the first non-MD to serve on the board of directors of the International Society for Investigative Dermatology (where she’s also on the executive committee). An experienced teacher and academic mentor, Ward is chair of the Faculty Council at Case Western’s School of Medicine. She is an editorial board member with the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (where she will also soon become a section editor) and Cytokine. She has extensive experience as an organizer of scientific meetings at the national and international level.

Ward studied biology and psychology at the University of Winnipeg and earned a master’s in neuroscience at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. After earning her doctorate in neurobiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ward undertook a fellowship with the Department of Medical Biophysics and Molecular & Cell Biology at the University of Toronto. She joined the faculty at Case Western in 2004.