President to return to clinical research full time
For 15 years, my “voice” has introduced our annual report. No doubt, this will be the last time, as I have asked The University of Texas System Board of Regents to choose my successor, and that process has begun.
These have been among the happiest years of my life, mainly because I have been working with our faculty, employees and volunteers, along with our generous community supporters, to build an outstanding academic medical center that has risen to new heights.
Over a decade ago, we wrote this vision together: “We shall be the premier cancer center in the world, based on the excellence of our people, our research-driven patient care and our science.” Indeed, today we are the premier cancer center, and we are widely perceived as such by patients, providers of health care and cancer researchers.
That is due to the hard work of thousands who have rallied to our cause and share the credit for our achievements. We can be proud of that, but we are humbled, as well, because we know that people are counting on us to further unravel the mysteries that surround the disease and to reduce the toll cancer takes.
An era of growth
In the last 14-plus years, MD Anderson has doubled the number of patients served annually and tripled the number of patients on clinical trials of novel new therapies. Those clinical trials have become increasingly more complicated and sophisticated, and are yielding better results.
We have greatly expanded our facilities and amenities for patients. The number of students and trainees here has tripled.
We have experienced a huge increase in research support and are number one in grants from the National Cancer Institute.
In a period of economic downturn, we completed a $1 billion campaign to raise philanthropic funds for research, two years ahead of schedule. Our Board of Visitors and the Development Office deserve kudos.
Another fine accomplishment is our outreach to the community and our collaborations outside Houston. MD Anderson’s regional care centers around Houston are delivering high-quality cancer care for an increasing number of patients in convenient settings. Clinical programs bear the MD Anderson name in Orlando, Madrid, Istanbul, Albuquerque and soon in Phoenix.
We have more than 20 sister institution agreements for research and training with outstanding cancer centers around the world that can learn from us, and we will learn from them.
We have built exemplary programs addressing disparities in cancer incidence and mortality, and soon will embark on an ambitious program in health services research to answer fundamental questions about improving the value and efficiency of care.
In recent years, MD Anderson has built a fine School of Health Professions that now awards eight different bachelor’s degrees leading to high-demand allied health jobs. And we have enhanced the quality of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences we share with the UT Health Science Center.
An amazing 6,000 full-time and part-time trainees seek education here each year, including more than 2,000 nurses and more than 1,000 physicians.
More work to be done
Over 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes. And 150,000 cancer patients will succumb to their disease this year.
At least 20% of Americans continue to smoke cigarettes. Too many people continue to be at risk for cancer because of their lifestyles and their environment.
The aberrant genes and molecular pathways that lead to cancer are not fully defined or understood. There still is much work to be done.
I look forward to returning to clinical research full time as co-director of our new Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy at the most exciting and encouraging time in history to be involved in cancer research and care.
Our goal is to be able to detect the aberrant genes in each individual patient’s cancer, and prescribe new therapies that are designed to target the products of these genes. This research is already under way at MD Anderson.
I am grateful for the opportunities MD Anderson has given me, and I am eager to continue contributing to the progress that is bound to come in the years ahead.
John Mendelsohn, M.D.