Surgeon Jason Hall and sociologist Chloe Bird joined the university on July 1
Tufts University School of Medicine has named an international expert on diverticular disease as its new chair for the Department of Surgery, and an internationally recognized sociologist whose career has focused on critical issues in health equity and women’s health as the new director for the Center of Health Equity Research in the Department of Medicine.
Jason Hall has been named the new chair of the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine, Surgeon-in-Chief at Tufts Medical Center (Tufts MC), and the Benjamin Andrews Chair of Surgery. This professorship was established in 1985 through an estate gift from Benjamin F. Andrews, M1914, a prominent physician and surgeon in Worcester, and his wife, Catherine, with support from the TMCA Foundation, the forerunner of the Tufts Medical Center Physicians Organization.
He comes to Tufts from Boston University (BU) where he was chief of the Section of Colon and Rectal Surgery in the Department of Surgery, director of the Dempsey Center for Digestive Disorders, and associate chair of faculty development and academic affairs at Boston Medical Center (BMC). In addition, he also served as an associate professor of surgery at Boston University School of Medicine.
Chloe Bird, an internationally respected sociologist focused on critical issues in health equity and women’s health, is the new director of the Center of Health Equity Research in the Department of Medicine at Tufts MC and Tufts University School of Medicine. She also has been named the Sara Murray Jordan Professor in the Department of Medicine. This professorship was established in honor of world-renowned gastroenterologist Sara Murray Jordan, M1921, who was a founding member of the Lahey Clinic in Boston. Bird comes to Tufts from the Rand Corporation, where for the past 20 years she was senior sociologist and professor of sociology at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Bird completed her postdoctoral training at Tufts MC.
Both Hall and Bird began their new roles July 1.
Destined To Be a Surgeon
“My friends knew I was going to be a surgeon before I knew it,” says Hall, who as a gastroenterologist has built a thriving colorectal surgery practice with significant clinical, research, and educational components while at BU and BMC.
Hall is considered an international expert in diverticular disease, a condition caused by inflammation or infection of the diverticula, which are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of the digestive system, most often in the lower part of the large intestine (colon). Diverticula are common, especially after age 40, and in people who are overweight or smoke. When diverticula cause problems, the result is severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and a marked change in bowel habits.
Hall’s other research interests include studies of colorectal cancer and of fistulas, which are abnormal, infected, tunnel-like passageways that form between two body parts, such as an organ or blood vessel and another structure.
“I’ve always been an action-oriented individual who likes to take things apart and put them back together. I’ve always had a three-dimensional understanding of the world and loved to use my manual dexterity skills to fix things,” he says. “It makes sense that I would choose a career that rewards those qualities.”
Hall says he is excited to join the very strong surgical department at Tufts. “It’s a great opportunity to lead a department with so much talent,” he says, adding that he believes the job of the department chair and surgeon-in-chief is to “support the hopes and dreams of the faculty while translating those aspirations into outstanding patient care.”
Training the next generation of surgical leaders in the profession and making Tufts surgical residency programs even stronger than they are today is also a major goal, Hall says. He is anxious to see Tufts’ surgical faculty publish more research while increasing the connections Tufts Department of Surgery has with other medical institutions in Greater Boston.
“We need to model today what we would like our residents and fellows to carry forward in their own careers and in the care of patients in the future,” he says. “I want to make sure we are meeting patients where they are, getting them the right doctor, at the right facility, and treating them with the best surgical care at the right time.”
Health Care for All
For Bird, the new role is an exciting opportunity to return to Tufts, where she did her postdoctoral training. She believes she can now employ the breadth of Tufts programs in medicine, dentistry, nutrition, and other schools and programs to improve understanding of how gender, race, and ethnicity shapes health care access, quality of care, as well as overall health outcomes.
Bird says that at this stage of her career, she also is excited to come to Tufts where, in addition to her own research, she believes she can have a greater impact by mentoring junior researchers. She notes that much of traditional medical research has “treated all people as interchangeable,” with most research studies of treatments, drugs, and health protocols tested predominantly on white men.
“We have overfit on a minority—white men—and considered them normative,” she says. “It’s OK to have built our research on stilts as long as we acknowledge that, but we can’t pretend we didn’t do that. We don’t have the science yet to know if a course of care or treatment is the same across genders, racial, and ethnic groups.”
The breadth of schools and programs at Tufts will enable her and the junior researchers she will mentor to greatly expand that knowledge base.
For example, one grant Bird is currently working on examines the effects of getting pregnant Medicaid recipients to receive pre-natal dental care—a study that can ultimately include researchers from the School of Medicine and the School of Dental Medicine, plus Tufts MC.
“We’re learning that dental care can reduce the risks of pre-eclampsia and improve overall health outcomes for the mother and baby,” she says. (Pre-eclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that develops later in pregnancy that results in high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein in the urine and often requires a fetus to be delivered early).
“Also, if a woman receives dental care prenatally, it’s more likely her children will get at least some dental care,” she adds.
“Doing this kind of research across schools at Tufts and working with young researchers just starting out, offers me a tremendous opportunity to contribute to our understanding of how to create healthcare that is truly based for all,” she says