Deb Schrag, MD, MPH, Named Chair of the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Deb Schrag

Deb Schrag, MD, MPH, has been named the new Chair of the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). An accomplished healthcare leader, clinician, researcher, and expert in public health and population science, Dr. Schrag has a deep familiarity with MSK, having previously spent eight years at the institution as a physician and faculty member. She joins MSK from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, where she has served as Chief of the Division of Population Sciences and a Professor of Medicine since 2013. She succeeds Phillip W. Kantoff, MD, as Chair of the Department of Medicine, who served in this role for six years.

Dr. Schrag is a medical oncologist specializing in the care of patients with gastrointestinal cancer. In addition, she is a population scientist and health services researcher. Her work has focused on improving the delivery, quality, and effectiveness of cancer care. Dr. Schrag is internationally recognized as a pioneer for her work engaging patients in reporting outcomes as a way to improve care. She has led pragmatic trials using informatics strategies to optimize patient and clinician well-being and the efficiency and equity of care. At MSK, Dr. Schrag will care for patients with colorectal cancer and build a research laboratory dedicated to innovation and care-delivery transformation.

“I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Schrag back to MSK, where she began her oncology career,” said Lisa M. DeAngelis, MD, MSK’s Physician-In-Chief. “Dr. Schrag’s discerning leadership qualities and experience building collaborative teams will enrich MSK’s esteemed Department of Medicine. I look forward to working closely with her to continue that tradition of excellence as she builds a research laboratory dedicated to innovation in care delivery transformation, mentors trainees and collaborates with clinicians, researchers and staff. Her efforts are sure to advance MSK’s mission as we continue to grow a culture designed to best meet both staff and patient needs.”

MSK’s Department of Medicine comprises nearly 500 faculty in medical oncology, hematology, and most internal medicine subspecialties, including experts in dermatology, hospital medicine, and urgent and supportive care. The department leads the development and testing of better cancer therapies — and ways to support patients through and beyond treatment. MSK’s experts in medical oncology, hematology, and other internal medicine subspecialties will report to Dr. Schrag.

“I am honored to lead this stellar group of faculty,” said Dr. Schrag. “My goal is to fertilize a culture that supports innovation and discovery across all types and phases of research. My passion lies in ensuring that the discoveries generated in the laboratory and as a result of clinical trials make the transition from research to reality to benefit all patients. By enhancing the way care is delivered, we can achieve better outcomes for more patients with cancer. To do this, it is imperative that we encourage physicians to apply their ingenuity to tackle important questions about how we can use mechanistic understanding of cancer etiology to design the smartest trials and execute these trials efficiently. We must also ensure that the insights we generate from trials reach all those who stand to benefit, harness the data generated by each patient’s cancer journey to improve outcomes in the future, and ultimately optimize the experience of care for cancer patients. I am eager to partner with MSK’s extraordinary faculty, staff, and leaders to address these fundamental questions.” 

Dr. Schrag is a native New Yorker who did her undergraduate work at Harvard University, earning a bachelor’s degree in the history of science, and attended medical school at Columbia University. From there, Dr. Schrag completed a residency in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a fellowship in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She also did a postdoctoral fellowship in health services research at the Harvard School of Public Health and earned a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard.

From 1999 through 2007, Dr. Schrag was part of MSK’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She was also in the Department of Medicine’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Service, where she rose to the rank of Associate Member. She returned to Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2008 as a dry-lab based investigator in the Division of Population Sciences and a medical oncologist focused on colorectal cancer in the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology. At Dana-Farber, Dr. Schrag served as the chair of Clinical Data Governance, co-chair of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, and led the Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center’s Cancer Care Delivery Research Program. She founded and led a fellowship training program in population sciences and taught physicians in the Harvard School of Public Health’s Clinical Effectiveness Program.

She has held continuous National Institutes of Health funding since 1998 and has also received support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, American Cancer Society, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and foundations for her research that has primarily focused on care delivery innovation, including health-system level interventions and pragmatic clinical trials. She has served on the external advisory boards of US and international cancer centers and has advised state legislatures, the US Congress, and international health ministries regarding the organization of oncology services and cancer care quality. Dr. Schrag has served as a director or member of the board for the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Cancer Policy Forum, the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. She is an Associate Editor of JAMA.