University of Maryland appoints first woman chair of surgery

The University of Maryland School of Medicine appointed the first woman in its history to head the department of surgery, after Dr. Stephen Bartlett left the position in 2017 to take another job within the university.

Dr. Christine Lau also was named chief of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.


Currently a professor of surgery and chief of the division of thoracic surgery at the University of Virginia, Lau will start at the University of Maryland in December. Lau is considered a nationally renowned thoracic and lung transplant surgeon, according to a statement from the university.

“She has been a true pioneer in the field of lung transplantation, and the School of Medicine and the Medical Center will continue their upward trajectory resulting from her strong record of academic and clinical leadership, as well as her scholarly excellence and management experience," said Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of Maryland’s medical school and executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, in a statement.


Lau will succeed Dr. Rajabrata Sarkar, who has served as the interim chair of the school’s surgery department since Bartlett became chief medical officer of the University of Maryland Medical System in May 2018.

Bartlett, one of Maryland’s highest paid public employees, resigned in December 2018 after 28 years with the university. He subsequently joined Vascular Surgery Associates, a local surgery group, as a partner.

Lau’s selection followed an extensive nationwide search in which nearly 100 candidates were nominated for this position, and she was selected as the top candidate.

Her appointment also makes her one of only a small number of women throughout the U.S. to lead a major department of surgery.

“While I never saw myself leaving UVA, the opportunity to influence the future direction of surgery at the University of Maryland is simply something that I wanted to be a part of!" Lau said in a statement.

The university has been trying to appoint more women to prominent positions in the medical system amid an effort top change a culture that some women there have called inequitable.