Everything we do at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC CancerCenter is about people, especially the patients we serve and the people who serve. Every single member of our staff and faculty plays a vital role in what we do and we would not be the world-class organization we are today were it not for our many community supporters.
Last month we took note of the important contributions of two special people who were instrumental in the foundation of UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter. All of us were delighted to learn that Elsie Hillman, founding member and vice chair of the UPCI Council, was selected as the 2013 National Dignity & Respect Champion. The mission of the campaign is to promote the shared belief that everyone deserves dignity and respect by encouraging behavioral changes in individuals, schools, organizations and communities. Of course we were not surprised that she received this recognition, the latest in a lifetime of accolades, because the precept of inclusion is at the core of Elsie's being. She devotes her energy and resources to so many organizations and areas of need to promote human and social services, health, women's issues and equality. In our local medical community alone, she has been a supporter of UPCI, Shadyside Hospital Foundation, Magee-Women's Research Institute and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, all vital parts of our mission against cancer. The Hillman Foundations provided pivotal gifts to establish the Hillman Cancer Center as a hub for the UPMC CancerCenter network, underwrote the construction of the Herberman Conference Center on the Shadyside campus, and endowed the Hillman Professorship of Oncology to support the UPCI Director. Elsie's support has helped to make UPCI a beacon for cancer research and care across the country.
We were saddened by the sudden and untimely death of Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., UPCI's founding director. Dr. Herberman played a major role in the creation of UPCI. Indeed it was his dedication and vision that helped shape us into one of the nation's leading National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive Cancer Centers. In 1985, Dr. Herberman was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh to build a world-class cancer institute. Within three years, he secured funding and designation as a Clinical Cancer Research Center from the NCI and moved UPCI to its current designation as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center by 1990. Over the next 20 years until his retirement in 2009, Ron built the research program, oversaw the expansion of UPMC's clinical oncology services to network sites through western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and together with Elsie and Henry Hillman, spearheaded the opening of the Hillman Cancer Center in 2002. He also served the greater University of Pittsburgh community in many ways, including as associate vice chancellor for cancer research, Hillman professor of oncology, professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology in the Department of Medicine.
Two weeks after Dr. Herberman's death we gathered for the 25th Annual UPCI Scientific Retreat on June 14 in the Petersen Events Center in Oakland just a few blocks from the offices where UPCI had its humble beginnings in 1985. The retreat was attended by 420 research and clinical faculty and staff members, postdoctoral fellows and students. A total of 177 poster presentations of research results graced the Petersen lobby, and a day of lectures, breakout sessions, and informal coffee breaks filled the center, stimulating lively discussions about the next steps we must take in the battle against cancer. All of us were only too aware that this would not have been possible without the sustained efforts of Elsie Hillman and Ron Herberman, two individuals who truly have made us what we are today, a multidisciplinary team dedicated to helping our patients live courageously as we strive for a world without cancer.