We are pleased to announce the appointment of William Foulkes, MBBS, PhD, as Chair of the Department of Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), McGill University, effective September 1, 2023. Dr. Foulkes takes over from Eric Shoubridge, PhD, who served as Chair since 2013. We would like to thank Prof. Shoubridge, who oversaw a substantial expansion in tenure-track hiring in the Department, including high-profile initiatives such as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Genomic Medicine, further strengthened the Genetic Counselling Program, and was tireless in championing the many successes of his department members.

Dr. Foulkes is a three-time graduate of the University of London where he obtained a BSc in Anatomy, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (equivalent to MDCM) and a PhD in Molecular Genetics. He first came to McGill to complete post-doctoral studies in cancer genetics.

At the FMHS, Dr. Foulkes is a Distinguished James McGill Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Oncology and Human Genetics and an associate member of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He is a clinician-researcher and has laboratories at both the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. He is also Director of the Program in Cancer Genetics at McGill.

Dr. Foulkes collaborates extensively with medical professionals and researchers around the world to better understand the genetics of various cancers and has made significant contributions to the understanding of inherited susceptibility to cancer. Over the past 12 years, his team has defined the phenotypes linked to the DICER1 tumour predisposition syndrome and is now exploring the functional impact of inherited variants in DICER1.  In 2014, he co-discovered SMARCA4 as the causative factor in Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary, Hypercalcemic type. He is also well known for his work on the clinico-pathological features of hereditary breast cancer and for his discovery and characterization of cancer predisposing founder mutations in Montreal populations.

A highly regarded supervisor and mentor, Dr. Foulkes has worked with nearly 70 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, clinical research fellows, undergraduate trainees and junior investigators in his career. He has co-authored more than 700 peer-reviewed manuscripts and is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the Royal College of Physicians, London and the Royal Society of Canada.

In 2020, the Government of Quebec recognized Dr. Foulkes with the Prix Wilder-Penfield as part of its Prix du Quebec competition, one of the highest honours in the province. In 2022, he received the Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Prize in Cancer Research from the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Foulkes is a member of the American Society of Human Genetics and the American Association for Cancer Research. His editorial activities include serving as an associate editor of the Journal of Pathology and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. He currently acts as Chair, Science Advisory Committee for the UK-based CanGene-CanVar project, and since 2005, has been co-organizer of the biennial International Symposium on Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.

As Chair of the Department of Human Genetics, Dr. Foulkes will provide leadership in all aspects of teaching and research within the Department while continuing to pursue his own research program and clinical work. He will advise the VP-Dean on all matters related to the Department, and will oversee planning, resource allocation and faculty recruitment. He will also provide mentorship to Department members and collaborate with the hospital-based research institutes within the McGill network, as well as with the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine on the McGill campus.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Foulkes on his appointment and in wishing him every success in his new role.

Lesley Fellows, MDCM, DPhil
Vice-Principal (Health Affairs)
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
and Health Sciences
Marc D. Pell, PhD
Interim Vice-Dean, Academic Affairs