Archive for May, 2011


May 30 2011

Invaluable Feedback from our External Advisory Board Meeting

by at 10:28 am

I hope everyone is enjoying the Memorial Day weekend. So far, the weather has cooperated. We’re going to the Phillies-Nationals game this afternoon to introduce our grandson to the wonders of baseball and to the mobile Phillies nation. I hope we’re not in a sun field; the temperature is expected to reach 95 degrees!

For many of us, last week was all about our External Advisory Board (EAB) meeting. It was exhilarating, exhausting, enlightening and incredibly helpful. As many of you know, the EAB is a reformulated body based upon our prior External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC). However, more than the name has changed. We deliberately retained some members of our old ESAC, such as Joe Pagano (the former ESAC chair) and Stan Gerson (now chair of the EAB). We then brought on new advisors whose expertise is ideally suited to our areas of scientific focus and turned over some former ESAC members with thanks for the service they have provided to us.

The goal of this EAB meeting was a bit different than the prior ESAC meetings. We were looking for specific input regarding our scientific programs, focusing a bit less on our shared resources and administrative aspects of the cancer center. Basically, I felt that we simply must get the programs right – with respect to their structures, leadership and areas of scientific focus.

To accomplish this, we employed an unusual and generally well-received meeting format.

On Wednesday morning, I gave a general overview and then introduced our programs. I then substituted for Craig Jordan to provide an overview of the process we had employed to evaluate our programs. Craig was disabled by a recent back injury, and actually underwent successful surgery the following day at GUH. I saw him on Friday, and he was walking the halls, accompanied by a nurse and his family. I am sure you join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

After this introductory segment was completed, we then had five simultaneous four-hour breakout sessions, one for each CCSG program. Two or three EAB members were assigned to each program’s breakout, and got an in-depth look at those programs through presentations by many of our scientists. I bounced among them, and was very pleased by the vibrant discussions, insightful comments and general excitement at each session. We then reconvened to discuss cross-cutting initiatives and administrative issues, and then adjourned for the day. Informal discussions followed at dinner, and a very long day ended for me at about 11 pm.

On Thursday morning we started around 8 am, and then each program leader gave a 15-minute program overview that incorporated comments and ideas from Wednesday’s breakout sessions. Each presentation was followed by feedback from the specific EAB members assigned to each program then by a more general discussion. We also discussed the status of clinical research and clinical research oversight. Finally, I had a private session with the EAB to get their more general recommendations.

This was the best and most informative EAB meeting I have ever attended. We have an extraordinary group of advisors who provided immensely valuable feedback and constructive suggestions. I can tell you that our science was very well received and there is no question that we are making significant progress as we move towards a competitive renewal of our CCSG.

We will extensively debrief over the next few weeks to incorporate the EAB’s recommendations as we await its formal written report. I hope to rapidly introduce joint program retreats to facilitate collaborations among all members, and I think that each program should invite one of its external advisors in on a yearly basis for an in-depth review of the program.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the EAB meeting a success.

Before I go, I also wish to congratulate Beth Peshkin and Kevin FitzGerald, who have been awarded the medical center’s CIRCLE Grant to develop a pilot curriculum on genomic medicine for SOM students. They hope to expand the existing SOM curriculum to encompass clinical aspects of genetic and genomic medicine– and to better prepare next generation of physicians to integrate genomics medicine into their routine clinical practice. I look forward to following their progress.

Enjoy the remainder of your holiday!

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May 20 2011

A Quick Getaway

by at 5:04 pm

Greetings! I have nothing new to report this week, other than that I (and many others) have been busy getting ready for next week’s EAB meeting. However, my wife Harriet decreed that I need a few days off, and has arranged for us to take a brief vacation, which started on Wednesday morning. I am very grateful to her for keeping my batteries fully charged!

I’ll be back in town on Sunday. Have a great weekend!

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May 15 2011

An Evening in Switzerland

by at 10:27 am

I spent last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning at a CCSG site visit for another cancer center. It was a remarkable opportunity to be a part of the review process. It had been a few years since my last site visit as a reviewer and it was helpful to see the new guidelines in action. As always, I also learned things that will be helpful as we go in for our own recompetition.

Fortunately, I got back into town in time to do some work before heading to the Swiss Embassy for a wonderful reception. The primary honorees were Dr. Hans-Jörg Senn, the founder of the St. Gallen Oncological Conferences, and our own Craig Jordan, who was honored earlier this year with the St. Gallen’s Prize for Breast Cancer Research.

This organization, which is based in Switzerland, has had a major impact on breast cancer research and is responsible for the dissemination of new findings to breast cancer physicians around the world.

Additional speakers included: Swiss Ambassador Manuel Sager; Cecilie Strommen, the wife of the Ambassador of Norway and a breast cancer survivor; and Judy Garber, current president of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) who is well known for her breast cancer risk research.

Joining in the celebration were many of Georgetown Lombardi’s faculty and staff. Craig gave a very moving and heartfelt presentation. It was a wonderful evening and a well-deserved honor.

This weekend I headed to Philadelphia to attend our oldest son’s graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. It is a special moment for our family.

Image of Jordan at the Swiss Embassy

Craig Jordan with the Swiss Ambassador and Dr. Hans-Jorg Senn at the reception on May 11

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May 07 2011

A Time of Transition and Farewells

by at 9:09 am

As I mentioned in my last blog, I was in Southern California, where I was a visiting professor at University of California, Irvine. After returning late on Sunday, the week was dominated by preparations for the Georgetown University Board of Directors meeting, which included a meeting of the Committee on Medical Center Affairs (COMCA).

Several board members have concluded their terms, including Tim O’Neill and Jeanne Ruesch. Tim chaired the search committee that led to my hiring as Georgetown Lombardi’s director, and I benefited greatly from his wise counsel and leadership of COMCA. He’ll be missed, although I have a feeling we’ll be seeing him fairly frequently.

And what can I say about Jeanne Ruesch? She has been an unbelievably visionary board member who established the Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Centers, and has been an active advocate for the Ruesch Center and for everything related to Georgetown. Though she is leaving the board, I am comforted to know that she will certainly remain as a dynamic force for Georgetown Lombardi, and I look forward to many years of continued collaboration with her.

But the big news this week is Peter Shields’ announcement that he’ll be leaving us this summer to become deputy director of the Cancer Center at Ohio State. Peter has been a remarkable resource at Georgetown Lombardi for many years, and his accomplishments as a scientist, policy advocate and all around indispensable guy are known to all of us. So too is his irreverent sense of humor, as well as his emails at 3 am that channel his inner Faulkner.

While Peter has been important for improving our cancer center environment, he also found the time for science and scientific leadership. His contributions to the breast cancer molecular epidemiology and also to tobacco control are well known. He was recently elected to be the President of the American Society of Preventive Oncology. At Georgetown Lombardi, he built the Carcinogenesis, Biomarkers and Epidemiology Program. In addition, he has led important efforts such as making DC smoke free, and has served on the DC Board of Medicine.

When I came to Georgetown Lombardi, Peter made the transition so much easier for me. He knew how to get everything done, and did so. Of course, he has always been ready for a larger stage to accommodate his talents, and I knew this day would come eventually.

I had hoped that today would not be that day. But, I know that Peter will find the larger stage of a Big Ten school to be in line with his capabilities, and I expect him to be every bit the force he has been at Georgetown. I do worry about how he’ll find gritty ethnic restaurants that he likes; however, he tells me he has already identified an Ethiopian place in Columbus (no review yet about the quality of the food).

Please join me in wishing Peter, Leslie and their kids all the best in their new adventure. We’ll all have a chance to celebrate Peter’s many accomplishments at the appropriate time — and I promise that he’ll be invited to attend!

We are working to create a smooth transition plan that maintains our administrative and scientific capabilities, and will provide more information on that as appropriate. So, while we will miss Peter, with his help we have laid a sound foundation that will serve us well for years to come.

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May 01 2011

A Post from the Road

by at 4:07 pm

I was a visiting professor at University of California, Irvine on Thursday and Friday. I really appreciated the hospitality of my host, Ellis Levin, who has been a leader in studying the membrane—and mitochondrial forms of the estrogen receptor. Southern California is really beautiful this time of the year, too.

This weekend was the two-day, 39-mile Avon Walk for breast cancer. I am awed and deeply appreciative of all the tireless work and commitment of the Georgetown Lombardi/CBCC team, and thankful for everyone who has shown their support of the team in various ways. Way to go, and I hope those blisters heal quickly!

If you have a chance, check out the wonderful newly renovated lobby and waiting area of the clinic. And, there are more renovations to come! We were able to show off the new look last week at a lovely reception in the lobby last Tuesday for the American Cancer Society, celebrating the flagship sponsors and participants of the ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk last October.  ACS has been a great partner for Georgetown Lombardi and it was terrific to have such a nice venue for the event.

Don’t forget to attend the Tumor Biology Program’s mini-poster session Monday at 5 pm on the fourth floor of the New Research Building. If you missed the fabulous science presented a few weeks ago during the Georgetown Lombardi Research Days, this is your chance to catch up on some really impressive presentations.

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