Nationally known cancer specialists to speak at Convocation

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Convocation 2011, UMass Worcester, September 14, 2011

Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Gleevac pioneer among distinguished guests for ceremonies 


By Lisa M. Larson
UMass Medical School Communications

A Pulitzer-Prize winning physician-author and a nationally recognized physician-scientist who pioneered targeted therapies for leukemia will bring their unique perspectives in the fight against cancer to UMass Medical School this week as keynote speakers at Convocation. Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and Charles L. Sawyers, MD, chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, will join Chancellor Michael F. Collins Thursday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. on the Campus Green for the traditional kickoff of the academic year.





Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD

“To take care of cancer patients is an enormous privilege, but it also involves deploying everything that is in your toolbox: the emotional, the psychological, the scientific, the epidemiologic and palliative medicine,” Dr. Mukherjee, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center, told Oncology & Biotech News last spring after he won the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. “Every aspect of medicine is involved, and the difference that you can make to a person’s life as an oncologist is incredible. You’re present, to a large extent, among the most moving and terrifying times of a person’s life, and the ability to help at that time is like a transcendental experience.’’

The Emperor of All Maladies, which was given to all entering UMass Medical students for their “Summer Read” project, portrays cancer as a living thing and documents its long history. The book takes readers from 550 BC, when the Persian Queen Atossa “swaddled her cancer-affected breast in cloth to hide it and then, in a fit of nihilistic and prescient fury, had a slave cut it off with a knife,” to present day, as Mukherjee immerses himself in the care of his own distraught patients. Read more about the Summer Read program here.

A Rhodes scholar, Mukherjee graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School. He published The Emperor of All Maladies in 2010.

The book will be the subject of the Dinner and Dialogue event Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 5 p.m. on the Campus Green, with three distinguished UMass Medical cancer specialists leading the discussion. Craig Ceol, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, and Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Lambi and Sarah Adams Chair in Genetic Research and professor of molecular medicine and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology will present at the event. Alan G. Rosmarin, MD, the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology and professor of medicine, will moderate.




Dr Sawyers      


Charles L. Sawyers, MD

Dr. Sawyers has been at the forefront of cancer research for decades. He was crucial in the creation of Gleevec, a unique and extremely effective treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia, for which he and two colleagues won the 2009 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator is building a program of lab-based translational researchers across various clinical disciplines and institutional infrastructure at Memorial Sloan-Kettering to enhance the application of global genomics tools to clinical trials.

He is currently focused on developing treatments for patients with prostate cancer who have developed resistance to drugs that fight the cancer by blocking male sex hormones, called androgens. A promising new drug, based on earlier work by Sawyers and his colleagues, is now in clinical trials.

“As we understand more about cancer genes, it's increasingly important to incorporate molecular measurements into clinical trials for all kinds of cancer, and to use genotyping to guide clinical management,” Sawyers said, in an interview published on the Memorial Sloan-Kettering website. “One of the missions of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program is to encourage this approach and develop the tools to make these measurements.” 




Darrell Kirch       

Darrell G. Kirch, MD

Capping off the week, the campus on Friday will welcome Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Dr. Kirch will deliver the keynote address for the White Coat Ceremony. He is an accomplished physician, educator, medical scientist and a noted authority on the organization and management of academic medical centers, whose career spans all aspects of academic medicine and includes leadership positions at two medical schools and teaching hospitals, as well as at the National Institutes of Health.

Kirch assumed the position of AAMC president in July 2006 following six years as senior vice president for health affairs, dean of the college of medicine and CEO of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center at The Pennsylvania State University. Before joining Penn State, Kirch held a number of leadership positions at the Medical College of Georgia.




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