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Promise - Summer 2009


A Banner Year as MD Anderson Extends Services to Arizona

Employees of Arizona’s leading health care provider gather to mark the announcement of the MD Anderson Banner Cancer Center, to open in 2011. Photo by Gracie Chavez

MD Anderson has joined with Arizona’s leading health care provider to create the MD Anderson Banner Cancer Center. The agreement with Banner Health marks the broadest extension of the institution’s clinical services outside of Houston.

Located on the campus of Banner Gateway Medical Center in the eastern Arizona city of Gilbert, the center is scheduled to open in late 2011. The 120,000 square-foot cancer outpatient center will provide 76 patient beds on two floors and will offer medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, pathology, laboratory, diagnostic imaging and other supportive clinical services. The center will be modeled after MD Anderson’s Houston outpatient clinics, which feature individual areas for specific cancers. MD Anderson will have clinical oversight for all aspects of care delivery.

“This is a great day for all people in Arizona who are touched by cancer,” says Peter S. Fine, Banner Health president and CEO. “We’re bringing patients and their families the latest in knowledge-based cancer care, guided by the top cancer center in the country — MD Anderson.”

Thomas W. Burke, M.D., executive vice president and physician-in-chief at MD Anderson, describes the collaboration as an opportunity in a fast-growing area “where we can truly make a difference with leading-edge therapies and prevention.”

The anticipated groundbreaking for the $90 million project, to be funded by nonprofit Banner Health through bonds, is late 2009 or early 2010.

Banner Health is one of the few hospital systems in the country that is far along in the implementation of digital health records into all of its hospitals. Banner Gateway already features an electronic medical records system and computerized physician order and entry systems.

“We believe this capability will offer a strong foundation for excellent patient care,” says Fine.


AACR Exec Receives First Margaret Kripke Legend Award

Margaret Kripke, Ph.D., special adviser to the provost at MD Anderson; Margaret Foti, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of AACR; and Elizabeth Travis, Ph.D., associate vice president for Women Faculty Programs at MD Anderson, commemorate the inaugural Margaret Kripke Legend Award. Photo by Barry Smith

From editorial assistant to chief executive officer, Margaret Foti, M.D., Ph.D., has achieved much during her career at the American Association for Cancer Research. Along the way, she’s made a difference in the fight against cancer, helping other women do the same and making sure they receive the credit they deserve.

Recently Foti was in the spotlight as the recipient of the institution’s inaugural Margaret Kripke Legend Award. Established in 2008, the Kripke Legend Award recognizes scientific and medical leaders who have made extraordinary efforts to hire a diverse workforce, promote women to leadership roles, nominate women for awards and otherwise advance their careers. The award was established in honor of Margaret Kripke, Ph.D., a distinguished scientist who achieved many firsts for women at MD Anderson, including her promotion to executive vice president and chief academic officer.

Foti delivered the Kripke Lecture, titled “Exceptional Women Leaders: Indispensable to Progress in Cancer Science and Medicine,” in March at MD Anderson.

The Kripke Legend Award is administered by MD Anderson’s Women Faculty Programs Office, which Kripke established before her retirement in 2007 to improve recruitment, retention and development of women faculty. Kripke is now special adviser to the provost at MD Anderson.

Foti co-founded Women in Cancer Research, an AACR group that supports the professional advancement and scientific achievements of women. WICR is open to men and women.

Foti started at AACR as editorial assistant for the journal Cancer Research. She was promoted four years later, becoming the youngest managing editor of a major scientific journal in the United States. After progressing through several management roles, Foti was named AACR’s first CEO in 1982.

Foti describes Kripke as “one of the true pioneers” in the advancement of women in science and says receiving the Kripke Legend Award is “a tremendous honor.”

“This award is special to me because I believe so strongly that we need to recognize the achievements women have made to science and encourage the next generation interested in careers in cancer research,” says Foti.


Arceneaux Award Honors Dynamic Nurse in Neurosurgery

Raymond Sawaya, M.D., chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, congratulates a surprised and speechless Gisela Sanchez-Williams, who reacts after learning she was named recipient of MD Anderson’s most prestigious nursing award. Photo by Eli Gukich

Gisela Sanchez-Williams, RN, MSN, ANP-BC, rushed to a mid-May meeting with Raymond Sawaya, M.D., chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at MD Anderson, to discuss a support group she created two years ago that addresses the special needs of spine tumor patients. But a knock at the conference room door indicated a change in the agenda. Amid a bevy of smiling colleagues bearing roses and balloons, Sanchez-Williams absorbed the news: She’s the 2009 recipient of the Ethel Fleming Arceneaux Outstanding Nurse-Oncologist Award, the institution’s most prestigious honor in nursing.

Nominated by her peers, supervisors and patients in recognition of exemplary clinical and research skills, Sanchez-Williams is an advanced practice nurse in the Department of Neurosurgery’s spine program.

Sanchez-Williams formally received the $15,000 award, established in 1982 by the Brown Foundation Inc., at a June 18 ceremony attended by numerous family members, friends, colleagues and patients. Walter Negley presented the check on behalf of the Brown Foundation Inc.

“I’m one of the luckiest surgeons at MD Anderson because I get to work with Gisela,” says Laurence D. Rhines, M.D., spine program director. “She’s able to focus on patients’ neurosurgical issues and at the same time recognize all of their medical, psychosocial and personal issues.”

Sanchez-Williams studied liberal arts at Keuka College in Keuka Park, N.Y., and received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Colegio Universitario Metropolitano in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. She also received a master’s degree and advance nurse practioner certification from the University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston. Sanchez-Williams worked at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for seven years before joining MD Anderson in 1991 as a senior research nurse in the Department of Leukemia. She worked in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology from 2000 to 2004.

“I’m beyond honored,” says Sanchez-Williams. “I feel privileged to work with this group. Dr. Rhines and I have the same vision. This award speaks also to the nurse practitioners with whom I work. We’re a cohesive, supportive and mentoring group.”

MD Anderson has provided “priceless lessons that no book can offer,” she says.

“Patients have taught me to relish the simple moments, to remain humble, to become aware of the power of touch and prayer and to listen and never stop learning,” says Sanchez-Williams. “For this I am truly grateful.”


Business and Professional Women’s Club Lauds Pathology Chair

Each year the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs honors one woman who exemplifies a spirit of discovery, caring and dedication in advancing cancer research and treatment. For her leadership in the laboratory and her role in helping speed the development of new cancer therapies, Janet M. Bruner, M.D., is the recipient of the 2009 BPW/Texas Award.

Bruner, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and deputy head of the Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at MD Anderson, accepted the $1,000 cash award at a ceremony in March.
An accomplished clinician, Bruner is internationally recognized for her expertise in diagnostic neuropathology. In the 1980s, she was instrumental in establishing MD Anderson’s Brain Tumor Program.

In 1998, Bruner became the institution’s first female chair of a clinical department, and in that capacity she has recruited more than 40 diagnostic pathologists. In 1999, she led the Department of Pathology to become the first at a cancer center to subspecialize its diagnostic pathology services.

Bruner is the initial recipient of the Ferenc and Phyllis Gyorkey Endowed Chair in Pathology and is a past president of the Houston Society of Clinical Pathologists.

BPW/Texas is a longtime supporter of MD Anderson. In 1941, its members encouraged the state’s lawmakers to appropriate funds to establish the institution and in 1949, to fund atomic energy-radiological facilities. BPW/Texas awarded its first gift to MD Anderson in 1974 and has since contributed more than $1.2 million to an array of research projects, educational programs and patient services.


Pivotal T cell Research Lands AAI Award

Exploring the intricacies of T cells, Chen Dong, Ph.D., a professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Immunology, uncovered a new molecular route in the adaptive immune system. Blocking the path might prevent autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Following the path could direct a powerful immune response against cancer.

The American Association of Immunologists honored Dong at the AAI annual meeting in May with its AAI-BD Biosciences Investigator Award.

Dong and colleagues reported their findings in a Nature Immunology paper that has been cited more than 540 times in the works of other scientists. Clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis are under way based on Dong’s work.

Dong, whose research has benefited from the George and Barbara Bush Endowment for Innovative Cancer Research, also directs his department’s new Center for Inflammation and Cancer.

Promise - Summer 2009

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