Smita Bhatia, MD, MPH, is a distinguished pediatric oncologist with a strong interest in cancer outcomes across all diagnoses and all age groups. She joins Children's of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to tackle the health challenges cancer survivors face during and after treatment.
As a professor in the UAB Department of Pediatrics, Bhatia will hold new positions as director of the Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship in the UA School of Medicine, vice chair for outcomes in the Department of Pediatrics, and associate director for cancer outcomes research at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. She will also join the Children’s of Alabama medical staff and be the co-director of the Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education.
Bhatia comes to Birmingham from the City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., where she established the Department of Population Sciences and serves as its chair. While at City of Hope, she became the inaugural holder of the Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences.
During her 18 years at City of Hope, Bhatia made several significant scientific contributions. She ensured comprehensive follow-up of all patients undergoing hematopoietic cell transplantation, identifying chronic health issues among the survivors. She developed multidisciplinary survivorship clinics for cancer survivors, providing these individuals with state-of-the-art comprehensive follow-up care in the setting of clinical research. Bhatia also furthered cancer etiology and outcomes by recruiting world-renowned investigators with the goal of reducing the burden of cancer across all segments of the population through collaborative, multidisciplinary initiatives.
Some specific findings have been especially meaningful to Bhatia. Through her work, she discovered an increased risk of radiation-related breast cancer among girls exposed to chest radiation during adolescence for the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This resulted in a reduction in the dose of radiation used for managing Hodgkin’s lymphoma in girls during their teenage years. She is currently leading a multi-institutional trial to develop risk-reduction strategies for girls treated with chest radiation. She has identified the role of specific genes that interact with anthracycline chemotherapy in increasing the risk of heart failure in childhood cancer survivors. She has also demonstrated the critical role for adherence to oral chemotherapy in preventing relapse in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and is now leading a national trial to enhance adherence to oral chemotherapy.
One of Bhatia’s positions at UAB will be as co-director of the UAB Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education.
Bhatia is a member of the American Society of Hematology, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, American Association of Cancer Research, American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, and American Society for Clinical Investigation. In 2012, she was elected to the ASCO board of directors. She serves as the associate chair for the Children’s Oncology Group, coordinating survivorship research across 200 pediatric oncology institutions in the United States. She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Frank H. Oski Lectureship Award from the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology to honor outstanding investigation in pediatric hematology/oncology.
Bhatia has published more than 160 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Blood, Nature Cancer Reviews, Lancet, Lancet Oncology and Nature Genetics, among others. She has served on the editorial boards for Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, Biology of Bone Marrow Transplantation, and Journal of Clinical Oncology, and also serves as the section editor for Cancer.
Bhatia has also served as principal investigator or co-investigator on substantial research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health, Leukemia Lymphoma Society and St. Baldrick’s Foundation, among others. She sits on several NIH /National Cancer Institute grant review panels and committees.
Born in India, Bhatia received her medical degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 1984 and completed fellowships in blood banking, pediatric hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplantation at the University of Minnesota. She also received a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota.
She comes to UAB with her husband, Ravi Bhatia, M.D., who will be the new director of the UAB Division of Hematology and Oncology and the deputy director of the Cancer Center.