Celebration of Faculty Excellence honors extraordinary clinicians and researchers
Annual awards highlight the exceptional efforts of more than 100 faculty members at MD Anderson
HOUSTON ― The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center honored more than 100 faculty members at the annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence, a highly anticipated event focused on the achievements of those who have brought great distinction to the institution during the last year.
Among these award recipients are six faculty members who were honored with the institution’s most prestigious endowed faculty awards, the Jack and Beverly Randall Prize for Excellence in Cancer Research, the John Mendelsohn Award for Faculty Leadership, the R. Lee Clark Prize and the Shirley Stein Scientific Endowed Research Award.
“These incredible faculty members exemplify the gold standards of excellence that distinguish MD Anderson and advance our mission to end cancer in Texas, the nation and the world,” said Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president. “I am inspired by all they do for our patients who ultimately benefit from their expertise, their hard work and their deep dedication.”
The Jack and Beverly Randall Prize for Excellence in Cancer Research
BOV member Jack Randall and his wife, Beverly, established the Jack and Beverly Randall Prize for Excellence in Cancer Research in 2011 to encourage innovative ideas and the novel thinking necessary to end cancer. The $100,000 Randall Prize honors researchers and clinicians who demonstrate uncommon foresight and ingenuity, as well as dedication to excellence in cancer research. The annual prize alternates between supporting exceptional researchers and thoughtful clinicians caring for patients with cancer. The 2023 recipient is:
Wargo is recognized for her groundbreaking and innovative discoveries on delineating the role of the microbiome in response to immunotherapy and for her studies of the use of neoadjuvant immunotherapy in melanoma and other cancers. She was recruited to MD Anderson in 2013 to help lead the Melanoma Moon Shot® efforts – and to continue important translational research work on targeted therapy, immunotherapy and the impact of the gut and tumor microbiome in cancer. Importantly, she is deeply invested in working with investigators across the institution and across the world to find better ways to treat, intercept and ultimately prevent cancer. Wargo is one of the inaugural members of the James P. Allison Institute at MD Anderson.
The John Mendelsohn Award for Faculty Leadership
The Mendelsohn Award was established in 2019 to honor the late John Mendelsohn, M.D., who served as MD Anderson’s third president. Mendelsohn inspired achievements in research-driven patient care, directed expansion of clinical and research facilities, and forged a research program focused on translating scientific findings to patient care and prevention. The annual $5,000 award recognizes a faculty member who reflects Mendelsohn’s leadership, scholarship and values. The 2023 recipient is:
Mohan is recognized as a pioneer of radiation dose calculation algorithms for pencil radiation beams and Monte Carlo code-based radiation treatment planning. A medical physics innovator for more than 50 years, he has long had a vision of integrating computer programming into the field. Mohan helped develop the first computerized radiation dosimetry system. He also is recognized for his endless engagement with mentees and his work to guide the next generation of high-caliber scientists.
R. Lee Clark Prize Established in 2016 and funded by the Estate of Jeanne F. Shelby, the R. Lee Clark Prize recognizes MD Anderson faculty in clinical research and basic/translational research with a $5,000 prize. The prize honors the dedication to scholarship, service and social responsibility embraced by the late R. Lee Clark, M.D., MD Anderson’s first president. The 2023 recipients are:
Liang is recognized as an international leader in cancer bioinformatics and omic studies. As a computational/laboratory researcher, his peers noted his best-in-class scholarship, service, and social responsibility. Liang previously received an inaugural R. Lee Clark Fellow Award in 2014 before his promotion to associate professor. He leads a vigorous research group focused on analysis and interpretation of “pan-cancer” omic data, an important approach to systems-level understanding of the molecular basis of human cancers. In addition to Liang’s achievements as an independent researcher, he and his group have provided high-quality bioinformatics and biostatistics support for a variety of basic, translational and clinical programs at MD Anderson and other institutions.
Valero is recognized for the high bar he set in service, scholarship, social service and as a gifted physician, investigator and teacher. With nearly 30 years of service to the institution, his current primary focus is on adjuvant and primary systemic therapy with novel biological agents. Valero is known as a physician who always puts patients first, always finding a way to see them quickly without being rushed. His scholarly accolades include developing and implementing many clinical trials, including as a pioneer in neoadjuvant therapy for breast cancer. Valero has been an innovator and early but critical adopter of new technologies ranging from informatics to genomics in decision-making.
Shirley Stein Scientific Endowed Research Award The Shirley Stein Scientific Endowed Research Award recognizes the exceptional clinical research of faculty members with limited project resources. The endowment was established in 2014 by MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV) member Gary Stein and his family and Regina Rogers, a Life Member of the BOV. Each award recipient receives $10,000 to generate preliminary data to support their competition for larger grants and federal funding. The 2023 recipients are:
Ballester is recognized for his excellent clinical care for cancer patients in neuropathology and molecular pathology. A member of the national practice committee (CAP Molecular Oncology Committee), he also serves as the organizer of a neuropathology course at a national pathology conference and has validated several diagnostic markers as well as established the first clinical Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) laboratory and first clinical NGS assay at UT Health Houston. Ballester also serves as the principal investigator of a research laboratory focusing on the development of cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers for patients with central nervous system tumors.
Yang is recognized for his research endeavors focused on understanding the uncertainties in particle therapy and developing novel techniques to make particle therapy more robust. His primary research area is developing dual-energy computed tomography (DECT)-based techniques to reduce range uncertainty by improving the accuracy of proton stopping power ratio (SPR) estimation. Yang and his team’s original research led to the discovery of the empirical relationship between the effective atomic number and the mean excitation energy of human tissues, which enabled the use of DECT for proton SPR estimation.