Get to Know Lu Le, MD, PhD — Chair of the Department of Dermatology

April 16, 2024 by


Lu Le, MD, PhD

Lu Q. Le, MD, PhD, a distinguished cancer biology researcher, was appointed chair of the Department of Dermatology on January 29, 2024.

Dr. Le is known for his pioneering work in cancer biology, with a particular focus on understanding the development of certain cancers from adult stem cells, as well as the critical role non-cancerous cells play in directing cancer cell development. As a physician-scientist, he has made significant contributions to clinical care and biology of the common tumor predisposition genetic disorder known as neurofibromatosis type 1.

A true ‘triple threat’ in the fields of research, clinical care, and education, Dr. Le shares a wealth of expertise and experience with our institution. He has an impressive track record that includes co-authoring more than 70 peer-reviewed publications and holding three patents.

We had a chance to talk with Dr. Le about exciting things happening in the field of dermatology, his goals for the department, what inspired his interest in science and medicine, and more.

Q. Why did you choose the UVA School of Medicine Department of Dermatology?

A. I was attracted to UVA for the opportunity to further grow our department into an elite one, bolstering the reputation of dermatology at UVA. As we celebrate our centennial anniversary as the oldest dermatology department in the region, this appointment affords me the chance to work with our current faculties to recruit world-class dermatologists and scientists with diverse expertise to make a lasting impact on the future of our department by building on this long tradition of excellence in dermatology at UVA School of Medicine.

Q. What inspired you to become a doctor/provider?

A. There are a lot of engineers and teachers in my family and I wanted to become an aerospace engineer. However, a job in college led me to medicine. Working in in the laboratory of Dr. Owen Witte, a highly regarded cancer researcher at UCLA, sparked my interest in science and medicine. I was inspired to see how experiments we did in the laboratory can turn into effective treatments that impact many people around the world.

Q. What’s the most exciting thing happening in your field right now?

A. Like other specialties in medicine, dermatology is undergoing transformative change. In the scientific front, research in the last 30 years is now bearing the fruits. As dermatologists, we have an explosive amount of new, effective treatments for many skin diseases, including psoriasis, eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions that we could not fathom 10-15 years ago. I believe the next big breakthroughs will be in skin cancer, regenerative medicine and anti-aging.

On the clinical side, the high demand for skin care will continue to grow, where academic dermatology around the country is adopting a business model of patient care for economic viability. I addition to the demography change, the revolution of the digital age, have led to a better informed and more demanding patients and society, which lead to the patient-centric model of care and a shift of power from autonomy to accountability and customer service.

I am very optimistic about the future of dermatology. Undoubtedly, changes on how we practice medicine will be expected, but I believe the academic dermatologists in our specialty have worked very hard to scientifically advance the care of our patients with skin disease and that must never be allowed to reduce or stop, to be sure that our patients will have the best dermatological care available in the future.

Q. What are some goals you would like to achieve during your time at UVA SOM?

A. I would like to build a brand name for UVA Health Dermatology. I like for everyone in Charlottesville and surrounding areas to think of UVA Health Dermatology when they have a skin problem. There is a great opportunity for academic dermatology like UVA to bring dermatology to the community to provide the highest quality of care to meet the demand of our patients. At the same time, this demand for clinical practice also leads to less time for education and scholarly work, result in abandonment of academic mission. To overcome this and to lead the way, we need to wear both the business hat and the academic hat to build a solid clinical enterprise and to invest in research and education as well as new patient care initiatives to allow our current faculties, and to recruit new ones, to develop their careers and clinical expertise to safeguard a strong future for the Department of Dermatology.

Q. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

A. Listen to your patients, they will tell you how to be a good clinician, how to be a good scientist, and how to be a good teacher.

Q. How do you spend your time away from work? Hobbies?

A. Our family loves the outdoors, and I enjoy biking and hiking. Many of the best aims for my grants came during these activities.

Filed Under: Faculty