At the Helm

Meet our new associate director for clinical affairs and physician lead of oncology services.

After an extensive national search, Leigh A. Cantrell, MD, MSPH, is UVA Comprehensive Cancer Center’s new associate director for clinical affairs and UVA Health’s new physician lead of the oncology service line. She succeeded Michael E. Williams, MD, ScM, in those roles effective February 1, 2024. Dr. Williams, the School of Medicine’s Byrd S. Leavell Professor of Medicine and professor of pathology, stepped down to focus on his teaching and research. 

In her new positions, Dr. Cantrell is helping to advance clinical and translational research and direct clinical care at UVA Health's cancer clinics throughout Virginia. Her mission involves overseeing the coordination of cancer care, promoting process improvement, optimizing the quality and safety of cancer care, increasing patient access, and enhancing the patient experience.  

Dr Cantrell sits with a patient
Dr. Cantrell's appointment coincides with rapid growth in cancer research and clinical care at UVA.


Dr. Cantrell is a UVA School of Medicine professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has been medical director of the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center Ambulatory Clinic since 2018. As chair of the Robotic Users Group from 2011 through 2023, Dr. Cantrell led transformational growth in the number of surgical oncologists and helped establish UVA Health’s transplant robotics program. She has held many other leadership roles within the School of Medicine and UVA Health since joining the organization in 2010, including: 

  • Executive vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (serving as interim chair 2021 - 2022) 
  • Residency program director, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2013 - 2023) 
  • Interim director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology (Feb. 2022 - Jan. 2023) 


In addition to robotics, Dr. Cantrell’s research interests include high-risk uterine and cervical cancers. Her contributions to gynecologic oncology include the FIRES trial, which established sentinel lymph node biopsy for endometrial cancers, and the Lunchbox trial, which investigated the sequencing of treatment for advanced-stage endometrial cancers. She is currently the institutional principal investigator for a trial evaluating robotic versus open radical hysterectomy for patients with early cervical cancer. These contributions illustrate why the Division of Gynecologic Oncology has consistently led clinical trials accrual at UVA Health.  

Dr. Cantrell has assumed leadership of clinical affairs and oncology services during a period of rapid growth. Read about UVA Health's expanding services for cancer patients across the commonwealth and the philanthropy making it possible in “Capacity for Care.” 

Learn how you can support the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and UVA's clinical cancer care and research by contacting Sophia Sjolinder, Associate Director of Development, Cancer Programs, at or 434.833.1912 or call 800.297.0102.