Dr. Ajay Maker, tenured professor of Surgery and Microbiology& Immunology, is a surgical oncologist with board certification in general surgery. His expertise include treating benign and malignant diseases of the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder and pancreas, as well as colon and other gastrointestinal cancers, melanoma, and sarcoma. He joined the Division of Surgical Oncology and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Illinois at Chicago after completing a fellowship in surgical oncology with a focus upon hepatopancreatobiliary surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and a post-doctoral fellowship in Tumor Immunology and Surgical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Maker cares for patients as part of a multidisciplinary team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, and radiologists who specialize in treating patients with these specific cancers.
Dr. Maker graduated from Brown University with honors in fine arts and biology. Thereafter, he enrolled in the Yale School of Medicine and was selected to enter the Basic Science Research Training Fellowship where he was awarded the Medical Scholars Award from the American Diabetes Association and the Association for Academic Surgery/Novartis Research Award. Upon entering the surgical residency training program at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he had already chosen to pursue a career in surgical oncology and was accepted into the surgical oncology fellowship program under Dr. Steven Rosenberg in the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NCI/NIH) where he completed a post-doctorate in tumor immunology/immunotherapy. Thereafter, he went on to complete a surgical oncology fellowship at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. As he began performing complex cancer resections, it became apparent to him that one of the most important problems that patients face is metastases. The impressive anti-tumor responses he saw with immunotherapy in melanoma patients was not in the armamentarium for GI tumors or their metastases, a more common source of cancer related mortality. Therefore, he decided to focus the efforts of his research career on expanding the role of immunotherapy for these tumors. As a physician-scientist, he has aligned his clinical practice to coincide with his research interests. He serves on the editorial board of multiple surgery and scientific journals, and holds or has held leadership roles in multiple academic and scientific societies, including the Society of Surgical Oncology, the Americas Hepatopancreatobiliary Association, the American College of Surgeons, and the Association for Academic Surgery. He currently is Director of Surgical Oncology for the Creticos Cancer Center and Director of Surgical Research for the University of Illinois MGH General Surgery Residency Training Program. His research has been funded by foundations and pharmaceutical companies; and he currently is the principal investigator on a multi-year federal research grant from the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health to study the immunobiology of GI cancers. He strongly believes that there is a unique niche for surgeon-scientists, and is passionate about improving care for cancer patients.