Nov. 8, 2022 — The College of Medicine office of research recently announced the appointment of two new assistant deans who will help the senior associate dean for research develop and execute a strategic vision for advancing the mission and science operations of the college.
Elias Sayour, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics, will serve as assistant dean for clinical science research, and Daniel Wesson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics, will serve as assistant dean for basic science research.
Learn more about the new assistant deans for clinical and basic science research below:
Elias Sayour, MD, PhD
During a hematology-oncology fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, Sayour felt lost.
His pediatric residency at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, where there was frequent patient turnover, left him feeling disconnected from his young patients. His fellowship created the opposite problem, in that he formed close personal bonds with his cancer-battling patients, many of whom ultimately succumbed to their illnesses.
While at Duke he met Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., now the Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the Lillian S. Wells Department of Neurosurgery and director of the UF Clinical Translational Science Institute, who suggested to him a career as a physician-scientist. On this path, he said, Sayour could leverage science to make discoveries with lasting impacts for patients. Sayour, who had completed his medical training at the University at Buffalo, then decided to pursue a doctoral program at Duke before joining the UF faculty.
“It sounds dramatic, but I would say science and research saved my career in medicine,” Sayour said. “Even though I didn’t originally like the lack of interconnectivity of the lab when I studied chemistry in undergrad, learning about translational research and the process of taking something from bench to bedside connected with me.”
Joining the office of research as the assistant dean for clinical science research, Sayour will develop and execute a strategic vision to facilitate clinical and translational investigations that will expand the college’s extramural funding base, enhance faculty competitiveness and increase the college’s global reputation for scholarly excellence.
Sayour is a board-certified pediatrician and oncologist with research funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has spearheaded new paradigm treatments being tested in canine patients with terminal brain cancer and he serves as a principal investigator on first-in-human immunotherapy studies for children with aggressive brain cancers. His many awards for his work include the U.S. Department of Defense Cancer Research Award, the American Brain Tumor Association Discovery Award and Hannah’s Heroes St. Baldrick’s Scholar Award.
In his new position, Sayour said he is excited about the future of medical discovery and the innovations yet to be uncovered.
“We’re here to make the world a better place, to give our children a better world, and with our research, there’s no telling what impact we can create that can change and improve lives.”
Daniel Wesson, PhD
During his undergraduate studies in psychology and philosophy, Wesson became interested in understanding how people make decisions and the brain’s influence in this process. His curiosity in this discipline has never ceased, and it continues to guide his lab’s nationally recognized research at the College of Medicine.
“The scientific method is something of a hobby of mine, and it’s thrilling to be in a career where I can work with others in my lab to craft the best possible studies and watch them come to fruition,” he said. “In my new role, I’m excited to be able to support and encourage others to spark their own curiosity and similarly see their science unfold.”
Wesson, the assistant dean for basic science research, will be responsible for the operational advancement and implementation of new initiatives in basic science.
His own NIH-funded research seeks to understand how populations of neurons in the brain give rise to decisions and sensory-driven motivated behaviors, with the goal of understanding fundamental brain operations and how these go bad in contexts of neurological disorders. He and his lab are the world’s leading authority on a brain region called the olfactory tubercle, and he is particularly interested in understanding the brain basis for odor-driven emotions, decisions and behaviors.
Wesson received his Ph.D. from Boston University and completed his postdoctoral training at the New York University School of Medicine and the Nathan Kline Institute. His research has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the Alzheimer’s Association, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Science Foundation.
In 2019, Wesson was awarded the Young Investigator Award for Research in Olfaction by the Association for Chemoreception Sciences, and he served as the elected secretary for this society from 2020-2022. He holds several advisory roles for foundations and is a chartered member for the NIH study section Learning, Memory and Decision Neuroscience. In addition to his research and his national-level service, Wesson supports researchers at UF by serving on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
“The College of Medicine has a large and impactful research community, and I’m looking forward to meeting and interacting with more of my colleagues to build teams that are as passionate about making discoveries as I am,” Wesson said. “I’m excited about collaborating, being a mentor and carrying forward a love of science as we continue to make advancements.”