Sandler receives Distinguished Mentor Award from AGA

The Distinguished Mentor Awards, given by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), recognizes individuals for achievements as outstanding mentors over a lifelong career.

CHICAGO -- The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has honored Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and epidemiology and former chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, 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 MedicineGastroenterology 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.