November 30, 2022

Vanderbilt mourns loss of surgical leader Beauchamp

R. Daniel Beauchamp, MD, former chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and surgeon-in-chief of Vanderbilt University Hospital, died Nov. 27 at Alive Hospice. He was 66 years old.

R. Daniel Beauchamp, MD, former chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and surgeon-in-chief of Vanderbilt University Hospital, died Nov. 27 at Alive Hospice. He was 66 years old.

R. Daniel Beauchamp, MD, served as chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences for 17 years. (photo by Anne Rayner)
R. Daniel Beauchamp, MD, served as chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences for 17 years. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Dr. Beauchamp, the John Clinton Foshee Distinguished Professor of Surgery, also held an appointment as professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. He served as chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences for 17 years, from July 2001 until he stepped down from the role in July 2018 to focus on his research. He served as deputy director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) from 2011 to 2019 and was appointed to the role of vice president for Cancer Center Network Affairs in 2018.

Under Dr. Beauchamp’s leadership the Section of Surgical Sciences strengthened its national reputation for innovation and advancing surgical care. During his tenure as chair, he supported expansion of the department’s research endeavors until the group reached the top 10 in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

“Dr. Beauchamp will be remembered as one of VUMC’s legendary leaders,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Dan’s contributions were enormous, helping propel our patient care and research initiatives to new heights. A true physician and scientist, he led with compassion and was tenacious in his efforts to advance our surgical programs while contributing enormously to the world of cancer research. A champion of diversity, equity and inclusion, Dan was steadfast in his commitment to people. We will miss him greatly, and our thoughts are with his wife, Shannon, and their daughter, Bryn.”

He positioned the Section of Surgical Sciences to successfully meet the demands of a steadily increasing volume of surgical cases and ambulatory visits, as well as expanded the training efforts for future surgeons. Today, the section is home to 199 clinical and research faculty, and 118 residents and 37 fellows training in 19 specialties.

“Dr. Beauchamp’s leadership advanced our surgical programs across all areas, resulting in many of the strategic advantages of our health system,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC. “During the 17 years that Dan led the Section of Surgical Sciences, the elements he championed expanded the scope and depth of our offerings, greatly benefiting our patients while creating superb training opportunities for many young surgeons. His legacy is one of vision and service. I express my sympathy to Shannon, Bryn, and the entire family for their loss.”

He also began a concerted and intentional effort to train and employ surgeons who better reflect the diverse population served by VUMC. Women now represent 32.9% of the section’s trainees, while approximately 20% of all trainees are either African American, Hispanic, Native American, South Asian or East Asian. Also under Dr. Beauchamp’s leadership, the number of female surgical faculty more than doubled.

“Dr. Beauchamp was a visionary leader who contributed profoundly and seamlessly in both a local and national capacity across the missions of academic surgery: patient care, science, education and administration,” said Seth Karp, MD, H. William Scott Jr. Professor of Surgery and Anesthesiology and chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences. “His legacy is our commitment to the importance of surgeons as scientists, and to training surgeon-scientists, to which he dedicated himself over a long career. His impact as a thoughtful, compassionate force cannot be overstated. This is a deep, personal loss for many at VUMC and across the country, and Dan will be dearly missed.”

Dr. Beauchamp first came to VUMC in 1987 as a postdoctoral fellow after completing his medical degree, internship and surgical residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Texas. He spent two years conducting basic growth factor research in the Department of Cell Biology under the direction of Harold “Hal” L. Moses, MD.

Dr. Beauchamp then returned to UTMB as an assistant professor in the departments of Surgery and Human Biological Chemistry and Genetics. During his UTMB tenure, he served as an attending faculty member for General Surgery, the Surgery Tumor Clinic, and the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. He also directed the James E. Thompson Memorial Molecular Biology Laboratory for Surgical Research.

Moses, who became the founding director of the Vanderbilt Cancer Center (now Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center), was instrumental in bringing Dr. Beauchamp back to VUMC in 1994 as he sought his assistance in developing the scientific and clinical programs at the new center.

Dr. Beauchamp joined the faculty of VUMC as an associate professor in the Department of Surgery in December 1994 and was named an associate professor of Cell Biology in July 1995. In 1997 he was appointed as the John L. Sawyers, M.D., Professor of Surgery and the founding division chief of a new Division of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery, which he led from 1997-2001. Dr. Beauchamp was appointed the John Clinton Foshee Distinguished Professor of Surgery and chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences, and Surgeon-in-Chief of VUMC in 2001.

Dr. Beauchamp built his clinical practice focused on surgical oncology. Until 2008, he cared for patients with a broad spectrum of malignancies, including gastrointestinal tract cancers, breast cancer, melanoma and soft tissue sarcoma. In his final years of clinical practice, Dr. Beauchamp focused on the care of breast cancer patients.

Beginning in 2014, Dr. Beauchamp served as co-leader of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Program at VICC. Cathy Eng, MD, joined as a co-leader of the program in 2019, and today the program has more than 30 members conducting clinical and translational research on a range of gastrointestinal cancers, with particular focus on colorectal, gastroesophageal and pancreatic cancers.

Dr. Beauchamp’s primary research activities were focused on colorectal carcinogenesis, the biology of cancer-cell invasion and metastasis, and applying DNA microarray, next-generation sequencing and proteomic technologies to identify novel molecular biomarkers and therapeutic targets in colorectal and other malignancies. He co-led one of the main projects of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) for 10 years, and his laboratory received continual R01 funding from the National Institutes of Health for more than 25 years.

“Over his almost 30-year faculty career at Vanderbilt, Dr. Beauchamp touched the lives of thousands of patients, colleagues and community members,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer for VUMC. “He was universally hailed as a warm, devoted, caring colleague and leader. Coming to cancer research at a time when the molecular biology of growth factors was exploding, Dr. Beauchamp was set on applying the benefits of that emerging field to cancer. His laboratory made important cancer research discoveries that advanced colorectal cancer treatment. In his many leadership roles at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, he was a powerful example of a compassionate surgeon, brilliant scientist, and dedicated colleague, mentor and friend. Our hearts go out to his wife, Shannon, and daughter, Bryn.”

Dr. Beauchamp’s laboratory door was always open, and he trained and mentored countless junior faculty members, physician-scientist fellows, postdoctoral research fellows, graduate students and medical students in his research space.

He is also admired for his many efforts to advance opportunities for underrepresented minorities in the field of surgery.

“Dr. Beauchamp was strongly committed to broad diversity at the Medical School throughout his career at VUMC, and also in his professional life,” said George C. Hill, PhD, Levi Watkins Professor of Administration and Medical Education, and Distinguished Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology. “From my day one at the Medical School, he demonstrated support and co-chaired the first strategic planning committee. He was a strong and consistent leader for inclusion and a consistent and wonderful leader in this space.”

Dr. Beauchamp was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2012. He was active in many other national surgical and scientific organizations including the Society of University Surgeons for which he served on the Executive Council for a decade and as president in 1999. He was also a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the Society for Surgical Oncology, the Association for Academic Surgeons, the Southern Surgical Association, the American Surgical Association, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Gastroenterology Association, the Halsted Society and the American Society for Cell Biology, among others.

His numerous awards included his selection as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and receipt of the American Surgical Association’s prestigious Flance-Karl Award for Scientific Achievement in 2015. Dr. Beauchamp also received the Frank Boehm Award for Excellence in Teaching Continuing Medical Education at Vanderbilt University.

During his career, Dr. Beauchamp served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, the Journal of Surgical Research, Surgery, the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Surgery, the American Journal of Surgery, Contemporary Surgery, and the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

He gave invited presentations throughout the United States and around the world. He authored more than 160 peer-reviewed publications, in addition to many book chapters, reviews and commentary articles. Dr. Beauchamp served as an associate editor for the “Sabiston Textbook of Surgery” since 1998, a project he enjoyed working on with editor-in-chief, Courtney Townsend Jr., MD, professor and Robertson-Poth Distinguished Chair in General Surgery at UTMB. Townsend had been Beauchamp’s mentor since his first clinical clerkship in surgery while a medical student at UTMB.

Dr. Beauchamp’s many institutional administrative responsibilities at VUMC included serving as chair of the Perioperative Enterprise Committee and co-leading the Perioperative Executive Leadership Committee. He also served on the VICC Executive Committee, the VICC Research Enterprise Steering Committee, the Vanderbilt Medical Group Executive Committee, the Medical School Executive Committee, the Clinical Enterprise Group, and the Surgical Critical Care Steering Committee.

Dr. Beauchamp is survived by his wife, Shannon; his daughter, Bryn Beauchamp (Brian Gibson); his father, Joe “Bud” Beauchamp; and his brother, Joe Beauchamp. He is preceded in death by his mother, Georgia Lee Holland.

Details on a memorial for Dr. Beauchamp will be announced at a later date.

Go here to see Dr. Beauchamp’s Section of Surgical Sciences professional biography.