The fight against cancer is a full-time job, requiring the work of dedicated healthcare and research professionals, staff and community supporters. Each year, we come together at the UPMC CancerCenter and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) to pause and celebrate those among us who are making a special difference in this fight. It was our pleasure last month to recognize this year's standouts during the 2013 Oncology Awards at the Herberman Conference Center.
Among the awardees were Thomas Williams and Jeffrey Germuska, who both were given the Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., Staff Appreciation Award because of their tireless work to support all researchers and staff in the Hillman Cancer Center. They received special recognition this year because of their leadership in clearing the fourth floor of the Hillman Cancer Center in preparation for its transformation into the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers. International melanoma expert, John M. Kirkwood, M.D., received the Merrill J. Egorin Excellence in Scientific Leadership Award, an award that was inspired by the outstanding scientific leadership of UPCI cancer pharmacologist, Merrill Egorin, who succumbed to multiple myeloma in 2010.
Several awards recognize exceptional clinical care. Five physicians were honored with Leo H. Criep, M.D., Excellence in Patient Care Awards. They were James Ohr, D.O., Kiran Rajasenan, M.D., Herbert Zeh III, M.D., Sushil Beriwal, M.D., and Tarit Dutta, M.D. This award was created in 1984 in honor of Dr. Criep, who was a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and had a special interest in the physician-patient relationship. Criep awardees are selected from among the medical, radiation and surgical oncology specialists in our central and community sites. We also had the chance to recognize two nurses – Julie Haught, R.N., B.S.N., O.C.N., and Carolyn Todaro, CRNO-II - who had been previously recognized for their outstanding patient care with Cameos of Caring Nurses of Western Pennsylvania Awards.
The Hope Awards honored individuals and teams for their extraordinary commitment to care. The honorees were the Hillman Cancer Center Pharmacy Staff; Kay Lowmaster, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.; Mary Hillman Jennings Radiation Oncology Center at UPMC Shadyside; Natrona Heights Medical Oncology; OHA Passavant Team; Christie Santure, B.S.N., R.N., O.C.N.; and Evelyn Wrzosek, R.N., C.M.S.R.N. Finally we celebrated Sheryl Merkle as the recipient of a Dignity & Respect Award.
Sy Holzer, chairman of the UPCI Council and president of PNC Bank Pittsburgh, presided over the ceremony, but also unexpectedly found himself as one of the honorees when we recognized him as the recipient of the James E. Stowers Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award which he recently received at the Institutional Investor's 20th Anniversary Mutual Fund Industry Awards in New York City. Mr. Holzer has been a longtime supporter of the work we do and we continue to be thankful for his friendship.
It is a certainty that all members of UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter work every day to promote our vital mission of scientific discovery, outstanding clinical care, and professional and patient education. The 2013 award recipients were commended for making that extra effort. Congratulations to all those who were recognized! It is truly a team effort of dedicated individuals in all domains and disciplines that allows us to advance our mission as a world class comprehensive cancer center that is dedicated to reducing the burden of cancer.