Ellis Island Medal of Honor Presented to Ronald DePinho, M.D.
Former MD Anderson president among national leaders recognized across all sectors
MD Anderson News Release May 18, 2017
Ronald DePinho, M.D., professor of biology and former president, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is among the recipients of the 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO).
The medal recognizes those who have made it their mission to share their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity with those less fortunate, all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America, according to Nasser J. Kazeminy, chairman of NECO.
“As the son of Portuguese immigrants, I was raised to have infinite love for my family and great respect for this country. My parents instilled in me the confidence to explore the possible and the core values to place the good of others first,” said DePinho. “It is an honor to be recognized as an Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient and to be named among the finest of our country. I truly am humbled by this award, which I accept on behalf of my parents and family.”
DePinho served as president of MD Anderson for six years, before returning to his lab to focus on translational research to make a meaningful impact in the clinic and to coordinate a global multi-sector effort to advance cancer care, especially for the impoverished.
When DePinho arrived at MD Anderson, he conceived and launched the Moon Shots Program™, a comprehensive effort designed to accelerate declines in cancer incidence and mortality in the nation and the world. This initiative catalyzed a national movement and already has yielded practice-changing advances in a number of cancers, first-in-class drugs now in clinical testing and major policy advances in cancer prevention.
Before joining MD Anderson, DePinho was an American Cancer Society Research Professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. He also was the Feinberg Senior Scholar in Cancer Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Medicine. He is the recipient of Portugal’s Order of Saint James of the Sword and many other prestigious honors and awards.
“The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is one of the highest honors a U.S. citizen can receive,” said 2015 recipient Andrew Sabin, an MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors member who nominated DePinho for the award. “Past recipients include seven U.S. presidents and a host of top individuals whose families have immigrated to Ellis Island and gone on to do so much for society. Seeing Ron receive his award, among the likes of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and all of the outstanding 2017 awardees, was truly amazing.”
The 2017 Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony was held on historic Ellis Island. This year’s recipients include Americans icons in business, government, medicine, art and education, as well as honorees from all branches of the military. Other notable recipients included TV journalist Fareed Zakaria, CEO of HSN Mindy Grossman and former film actress and executive Sherry Lansing.
Since the Medal was founded in 1986, NECO has honored such distinguished and diverse Americans as seven Presidents of the United States; Nobelist Elie Wiesel; Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell; Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton; Bob Hope; Frank Sinatra; Muhammed Ali; and Rosa Parks.