Distinguished Mentor Awards

Gregory J. Gores, MD, AGAF

Mayo Clinic
Rochester, MN

AGA honors Gregory J. Gores, MD, AGAF, with the first of two Distinguished Mentor Awards for his achievements as an outstanding mentor over a lifelong career.

Dr. Gores is the Reuben R. Eisenberg endowed professor of medicine and physiology and executive dean for research at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, a distinguished investigator of the Mayo Foundation, and a past chair of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology. Dr. Gores also serves as a professor of medicine, and is a past medical director of the liver transplant program at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Dr. Gores has been a devoted teacher and mentor to medical students, residents and fellows for almost 30 years. He is an excellent administrator and a role model to his students and his peers who commend his efforts in fostering intellectual growth, career development and professional guidance. Dr. Gores has mentored more than 70 post-doctoral research and clinical fellows.

Through his mentorship activites, Dr. Gores has been very effective in encouraging trainees to pursue clinical as well as academic activities in gastroenterology and hepatology. Dr. Gores works to ensure mentees’ scientific success while he supervises them and he continues to offer professional guidance and personal encouragement throughout their careers. At least 50 of the 70 fellows who Dr. Gores mentored now have appointments in academic and medical centers, and they consider him a role model for their clinical and research practices.

Dr. Gores is an extremely accomplished and internationally renowned investigator in hepatobiliary neoplasia and is considered a pioneer in the areas of hepatocellular carcinoma and bile duct malignancies. He helped develop and apply a protocol involving neoadjuvant therapy followed by liver transplantation for selected patients with biliary trace malignancies. This protocol was so successful that it was adapted by the United Network for Organ Sharing as a standard for approving patients with that indication for liver transplantation.

In addition, Dr. Gores has made a substantial and sustained impact on academic gastroenterology, including clinical, translational and basic research. He has been at the forefront of basic research in liver and biliary cancers and the mechanisms of liver cell death, and he has been instrumental in the development of key clinical research initiatives that have transformed the hepatobiliary neoplasia practice.

Dr. Gores has served as an associate editor for Gastroenterology and for Hepatology on two separate terms. He is the past recipient of a highly prestigious and competitive NIH MERIT Award and is currently a principal investigator of three NIH R01 grants. Dr. Gores has co-authored more than 500 publications, which have been cited over 25,000 times.

Dr. Gores is a member of the American Association for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and he is a past president of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the International Liver Cancer Association. He has chaired the Hepatobiliary Pathobiology NIH Study Section and served as a member of the NIDDK Advisory Council. Effective at Digestive Disease Week® 2014, Dr. Gores will continue his commitment to AGA as he assumes the role of basic science councillor on the AGA Institute Governing Board. 

Dr. Gores received his medical degree from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, in 1980. He completed his medical residency and fellowship at Mayo Clinic, where he became a staff physician in 1986.

Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, AGAF

University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill

AGA honors Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, AGAF, professor of medicine and epidemiology and former chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with its second Distinguished Mentor Award.

As division chief, Dr. Sandler led the UNC division to national and international recognition. He is also the leader of University of North Carolina’s NIH-funded Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease.

In 1990, Dr. Sandler received a T32 grant from NIH to train young investigators interested in gastroenterology clinical research and methods of epidemiology. His program, the first of its kind in the U.S., has operated continuously over the last 24 years and has served as a model for similar programs throughout the country.

Dr. Sandler is viewed by his students and his peers as an outstanding mentor who has guided and contributed to the personal or professional development of all who have had the opportunity to work with him. He consistently and enthusiastically makes the extra effort to assist fellows in the development of their careers. In the last four years, Dr. Sandler has been recognized three times by UNC’s GI fellows with an award for excellence in mentoring.

In addition to the honors bestowed upon him, Dr. Sandler’s success as a mentor is evidenced by his mentees’ outstanding academic productivity. His former mentees include division chiefs, GI journal editors and associate editors, funded researchers, gifted educators, and prolific authors. In addition to local mentoring, he has informally mentored faculty members at other institutions.

For the past two decades, Dr. Sandler’s research has focused on the etiology and prevention of colorectal neoplasia. During this time, he has built one of the largest GI epidemiology research groups and conducted some of the best population-based case control studies of colorectal adenoma and carcinoma in the country. His work has defined appropriate chemoprevention for colorectal cancer and has provided new information on mechanisms for colorectal cancer pathogenesis. More recently, his foresight in collection of multiple biological specimens for his epidemiologic studies has moved the field forward to define the role of biomarkers in colorectal cancer detection and treatment.

Dr. Sandler’s work has been broadly featured in peer-reviewed literature. He has published more than 300 articles in esteemed medical journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Gastroenterology and Annals of Internal Medicine. His articles include landmark clinical trials of chemopreventive agents in colorectal polyps and detail his results of multiple clinical trials and observational studies. His North Carolina Colon Cancer Study cohort has been an indispensable resource for investigators needing a well-characterized, meticulously documented cohort of cancer patients with matching controls.

Dr. Sandler has been active in the AGA for many years, serving as president of the AGA Institute in 2008. He currently oversees the AGA Institute Publications Committee.

After graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Union College in Schenectady, NY, Dr. Sandler received his degree in medicine from Yale University in 1975. When Dr. Sandler received his master of public health degree in epidemiology from UNC Chapel Hill in 1982, he was one of the first investigators in gastroenterology to obtain additional formal training in the field.