Meet Hisham Hussan, new associate professor of gastroenterology


Late last year, UC Davis Health welcomed Hisham Hussan as an associate professor in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Man with black hair smiling and wearing aqua bowtie.
Hisham Hussan, associate professor of gastroenterology

As a general gastroenterologist, Hussan focuses on improving various gastrointestinal symptoms, with a focus on colorectal cancer prevention in adults. Another area of expertise for him is improving the gastrointestinal health of adults with obesity or prior bariatric surgery.

Prior to joining UC Davis Health, Hussan trained and held a faculty position at the Ohio State University. There, his responsibilities included clinical care of adults predisposed to colorectal cancer and research on nutrition, microbiome, and the development of cancer.

Hussan recently shared his excitement about joining the health system, his career experience, interests and goals for the division and its patients.

When and why did you join UC Davis Health?

I joined UC Davis Health in November 2022. Driven by my passion to accelerate my academic career, I was drawn to the world-class research environment at UC Davis. Meeting my current department leaders and learning about their vision, enthusiasm, and support for research made my decision very clear.

What is your first goal at UC Davis Health?

My main research focus is investigating how colorectal cancer begins and develops, as well as  prevention via lifestyle modifications, microbiome manipulation, weight-loss procedures, or medications. Advancing this research is critical for adults who are at high risk for colon or rectal cancer due to family history, genetics or other factors.

My first goal is to develop a multidisciplinary clinical and research program that is focused on colorectal cancer with an emphasis on the role of obesity and other lifestyle factors. Since my arrival, we have taken major strides toward this goal, and we keep seeing tremendous enthusiasm from colleagues and stakeholders.

Over the past nine months, we have already gained national recognition for managing patients who are obese and at risk for colorectal cancer through the following accomplishments:

We have been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to develop a new paper-based finger prick blood test that has potential to enable self-testing at home. The goal of this test is to ultimately improve colorectal screening outreach to vulnerable and underserved populations.

What type of conditions do you treat in gastroenterology?

I have established a clinic that is focused on sporadic, inherited and familial colorectal cancer (e.g., polyposis or Lynch syndrome). As part of this clinic, I comprehensively manage patients who have polyps or are at high risk for colorectal cancer. This includes genetic evaluation, dietary and lifestyle counseling, surveillance for cancer using state-of-the-art methods, and recruitment into clinical trials.

Another area of focus that is driven by my interest in obesity prevention is management of complex gastrointestinal conditions of patients with obesity or prior bariatric surgery. I am also a comprehensive gastroenterologist. That means I manage adults with irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, etc. I perform regular gastrointestinal procedures and can perform resections, or removals, of complex large colon polyps. This also includes cancer surveillance.

How are you collaborating with surgery to treat patients with gastrointestinal conditions?

I am currently working with colorectal surgery to expand my colon cancer prevention clinic into a multidisciplinary program aimed at management of inherited and familial colorectal cancer. We plan to have partners from gynecology and genetics join our program. From a research standpoint, I have been working closely with medical oncology and colorectal cancer surgery on recruiting participants for our colon cancer prevention trials.

I also established the first-of-its-kind bariatric-GI case conference at UC Davis Health to discuss complex cases in collaboration with other gastroenterology colleagues and our bariatric surgery group. Our first case conference was on in April of 2023. It is held on the first Friday of each month. As part of this monthly conference, we discuss highly complex post-surgery patients and GI/Bariatric fellows give lessons related to their presentations. I also offer to see these patients in my clinic for a closer evaluation.

Why are you committed to gastroenterology?

My 17-year career has been devoted to both clinical and translational research and has been supported by the American College of Gastroenterology, the NIH, and industry sponsors. 

Growing up, the world of science always fascinated me. This, along with a compassionate nature that led my parents to give me the nickname “Le Voluntaire” (the Volunteer), has pushed me to study medicine, a field that combines these attributes. 

Early in my education, I found it enjoyable to learn about the gastrointestinal system, and during medical school, I had the privilege of working with my father, a colorectal surgeon at the time. He taught me so much about the human physiology and his guidance and teachings have had a lasting effect on me. 

I am also grateful to all my teachers throughout the years who instilled in me the importance of basic sciences in driving innovation in medicine. I continue to fulfill my promise to self as a physician-scientist with a drive to inspire, on many levels, through compassionate teaching and dedicated mentorship. 

Every day I see patients in clinic, I am also reminded of the importance of our purpose as healers with a sacred mission of improving the lives of patients, one at a time with the hope that this will trickle down and improve the health of the community. I am very grateful for this privilege.