Swathi Arur named Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine Scholar by National Academy of Medicine

Distinguished leaders in health fields selected to collaborate over three-year term

Swathi Arur, Ph.D., professor and deputy chair of Genetics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been selected as one of the 2022 Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Scholars by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Arur is the first MD Anderson faculty member to be appointed to this prestigious group since its creation in 2016.

NAM, founded in 1970, is an independent organization of professionals that advises the entire scientific community on critical health issues. The Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine (ELHM) Program was started to increase the academy’s engagement with exceptional, interdisciplinary early- to mid-career professionals in biomedical science, population health, health care, health policy and other related fields.

Each year, NAM chooses up to 10 new ELHM Scholars to serve three-year terms, creating a network that encourages collaboration, innovation, participation in National Academies convening activities, leadership opportunities and mentoring by NAM members across disciplines

“We are thrilled that Dr. Arur is being recognized by the National Academy of Medicine for both her contributions and extraordinary leadership in the life sciences,” said Peter Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “Her passion, expertise and foundational work in advancing cancer metastasis research are invaluable to our institution, and we applaud her selection as part of this exemplary group of scholars.”

The NAM Emerging Leaders Forum, to be held in Washington, D.C., April 18-19, 2023, will allow these scholars to engage in interdisciplinary discussions among the nation’s rising leaders in health and medicine. ELHM Scholars also will contribute to shaping the priorities of NAM by focusing on pressing medical challenges, improving health policies and building equity for all.

“We do not inherit a perfect world. Instead, the world is more often a product of our actions and of what we pay forward and leave behind,” Arur said. “To be named an Emerging Leader is not only an honor, but it also gives me an opportunity to work with and learn from global leaders in health and medicine policy who constantly strive to make the world better.”

Arur’s laboratory, established in 2010, uses multidisciplinary approaches to uncover a deeper understanding of the impact of female nutrition on fertility and how it affects the onset and progression of metastatic cancers.

Arur’s passion for health improvement was evident as an undergraduate at the University of Delhi, where she started a non-governmental organization focused on providing better healthcare for children with HIV. She earned her Ph.D. in microbiology from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences and continued her postgraduate work at the University of Connecticut, where she led efforts to integrate quantitative mass spectrometry with cell cultures in apoptosis research, one of the earliest instances of this cutting-edge proteomics technology.

Her pursuit to understand how these findings applied in vivo led her to learn about the model organism C. elegans, which she later used to research germ cell signaling during her postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Her background as both a germ cell biologist and as a cancer biologist helped fuel her passion for collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches to research.

At MD Anderson, she continues to investigate the environmental cues and signaling pathways involved in C. elegans germ cell development and metabolism, leading to a further understanding of female fertility while uncovering many of the mechanisms behind the progression and metastasis of KRAS-driven cancers. These efforts can help in the development of future therapeutic strategies for patients.

Arur also strives to champion diverse populations, having served as chair of the institution’s committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In this role, she established practices that have helped increase the number of students from historically excluded backgrounds who pursue STEM fields at both MD Anderson and The University of Texas System.

Arur has received numerous distinctions over the years. She was named an MD Anderson Presidential Scholar in 2016, an Andrew Sabin Family Fellow in 2017, a Distinguished Faculty Mentor in 2018 and a 2022 Presidential Honoree for Education and Mentorship Advancement. In 2020, Arur was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She currently serves on the Board of Directors and is chair of the Awards Committee for the Genetics Society of America. She is a standing study member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Cellular, Molecular and Integrative Reproduction study section and an Editor at Development. She also is the co-chair and chair of the Gordon Research Conference in Developmental Biology in 2023 and 2025, respectively.