UCLA neurosurgeon named to National Academy of Medicine

Election honors Dr. Linda Liau’s contributions to health care and science
Dr. Linda Liau looking at a test tube.

Dr. Linda Liau, an internationally renowned neurosurgeon-scientist and chair of the neurosurgery department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has been elected by her peers to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Membership honors people who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements, commitment to service and contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.

A scientist in UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Liau has devoted the past 25 years to developing and refining treatment strategies for glioblastoma, the most deadly form of brain tumor. Her research in the early 1990s led to her creating one of the first personalized vaccines, using a patient’s own tumor specimen and white blood cells to activate the immune system to fight off cancer.

“I have always had a huge drive to prove that things that seem impossible can actually be possible someday,” Liau said. “When I first started working on brain tumor immunotherapy, everyone told me that you can’t mount an immune response in the brain. Now we know that’s not true.”

Recognized for her expertise in complicated tumor surgery, Liau attracts patients from around the world and has performed more than 2,000 brain tumor surgeries. Her research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for the past two decades, and she has written more than 160 research articles, along with several book chapters and textbooks. 

She also is a trailblazer in her specialty: Just 6 percent of licensed neurosurgeons in the U.S. are female, and Liau is only the second woman in the nation — and the first Asian-American woman — to lead an academic department of neurosurgery. As chair, Liau directs a clinical team of more than 60 neurosurgeons, neuroscientists, residents, fellows and other specialists in the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery, one of the world’s foremost centers for neurosurgical research, clinical care and education.

“I am thrilled to see Dr. Liau’s scientific creativity and unwavering dedication to brain cancer patients recognized by the National Academy of Medicine,” said Dr. Kelsey Martin, dean of the Geffen School of Medicine. “She is a true pioneer in immunotherapy and represents what our medical school strives for every day — exceptional clinical care, cutting-edge research and skillful training of physician-scientists.”

The academy, which was known from 1970 to 2015 as the Institute of Medicine, provides independent analysis, informs public policy decisions, encourages education and research and increases public understanding of medical and health issues.

Liau joins 25 other current and emeriti UCLA medical school faculty elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

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