Andrea Hayes-Jordan: One Surgeon Saving the Lives of Children

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Andrea attended Dartmouth College for her undergraduate degree and medical school. She returned to her home state of California to complete her residency at University of California, Davis, and University of California, San Francisco. In her free time, Andrea enjoys gardening at her home off Mount Carmel Church Road that she shares with her husband, Darin. The couple has two adult children, Jenelle and Jonah.

Andrea
Illustration by Jillian Ohl

Surgeon-in-Chief, UNC Children’s Hospital; Division Chief, Pediatric Surgery, UNC School of Medicine; and Byah Thomason Doxey-Sanford Doxey Distinguished Professor of Surgery

By Lindsay Rusczak

No two days are alike for Dr. Andrea Hayes-Jordan. One morning, she may see patients at UNC Hospitals Children’s Specialty Clinic, and the next day, she might perform a 20-hour surgery removing tumors from an 11-year-old’s chest. The one constant: she’s saving the lives of children.

A native of Los Angeles, Andrea came to Chapel Hill in 2018 with her husband, Darin, when she was recruited as the surgeon-in-chief of the UNC Children’s Hospital. She’s also the division chief of pediatric surgery at UNC School of Medicine and has a laboratory at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center where she researches desmoplastic small round cell tumors, a type of sarcoma.

Through lengthy surgeries, workdays and detailed research, it’s the kids she serves that keeps her going.

“My patients give me energy and keep me focused,” Andrea says. “I believe that I was put on this earth to help the children with rare cancers and that God works through me to help these kids.”

Andrea’s determination to make a difference drives her groundbreaking research in cancer treatment. In 2006, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, she was the first person to perform hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, on a pediatric patient. The surgery involves removing hundreds of tumors and washing the inside of the abdominal cavity with very hot chemotherapy. Andrea doubled the life expectancy of patients receiving this treatment.

The crowning achievement of her work came in October 2019 when she became one of three people appointed that year by President Donald Trump to the National Cancer Advisory Board, a committee that helps route funding to cancer research projects around the country. Andrea’s work has received international attention as well. She’s traveled to Russia, Switzerland and many other countries to teach surgeons how to perform procedures such as HIPEC.

Once she’s able to again, Andrea plans to give back outside of her role at the hospital. “I’m looking forward to volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill,” she says. “[They are] an invaluable resource for children in this community, as they provide support, housing and three meals a day to hundreds of families of children who are hospitalized with devastating illnesses.”

From the time she was a kid, Andrea knew that she would one day have a profession helping others. Throughout her career, she’s followed this advice and given it to women with similar aspirations: “Stay focused on what your passion is,” she says. “Don’t give up, and don’t let anybody else define who you are.”

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