One of the highest honors in the life of a research scholar in the university setting is the conferral of an endowed professorship, a so-called “chair.” This recognition comes only to those who have had a career of accomplishment which is expected to continue unabated and arrives only after a rigorous peer evaluation. It brings with it financial resources to support faculty members to be creative and to pursue new “high risk-high impact” ideas.
That is why we at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute are thrilled that five of our leaders have been named by the University of Pittsburgh as the recipients of endowed chairs over the last six months.
- Yuan Chang, M.D., will hold the UPMC Chair in Cancer Virology Research. Her work focuses on the development of new techniques for DNA sampling to discover pathogens that cause chronic diseases. With fellow chair recipient, Dr. Patrick Moore, Dr. Chang identified the viruses that cause Kaposi sarcoma and Merkel cell carcinoma, two of the seven viruses known to cause cancer. The chair is funded by UPMC.
- Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., co-leader of the Cancer Immunology Program, will hold the UPMC Chair in Advanced Oncologic Head and Neck Surgery. A practicing head and neck cancer surgeon and immunologist, Dr. Ferris will focus his research on immune aspects of the systemic therapy that many head and neck cancer patients must receive to complement their surgery. The chair is funded by UPMC.
- Patrick Moore, M.D., M.P.H., leader of the Cancer Virology Program, will hold The Pittsburgh Foundation Chair in Innovative Cancer Research. Dr. Moore is leader of UPCI's Cancer Virology Program where his research focuses on the link between viruses and cancer. He hopes to discover why some viruses evolve to cause cancer while others cause nothing worse than the common cold. The chair was funded through a $1 million award from The Pittsburgh Foundation and UPCI is raising $1 million in matching funds. More than $800,000 in cash and pledges has already been committed towards the goal from individuals within the community.
- Shivendra Singh, Ph.D., associate director for Basic Science, will hold the UPMC Chair in Cancer Prevention Research. Dr. Singh's research involves cancer chemoprevention, a relatively new but rapidly emerging sub-discipline in oncology, which signifies the use of natural or synthetic agents to reverse or delay the process of carcinogenesis. The chair is funded by UPMC.
- Jian-Min Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., associate director for Population Sciences, will hold the Arnold Palmer Chair in Cancer Prevention. His work focuses on the long term follow-up of two population cohorts in China and Singapore, tracking the development of cancer and other chronic diseases, in order to identify better prevention strategies. This chair was funded by the Arnold Palmer Foundation.
We are especially grateful for the philanthropy which supports two of these chairs, a generous contribution from golf great, Arnold Palmer, as well as the $1 million gift from The Pittsburgh Foundation to partially underwrite the Pittsburgh Foundation Chair for Innovative Cancer Research. We also acknowledge the enormous investment from UPMC to support the other three chairs. Because of federal funding cuts, major philanthropic investments are more critical than ever, not only to sustain and expand research programs but to recruit and retain the most talented scientists and physicians.
By investing in our people and their ideas and their work, these donors will enable the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute to continue to accelerate our research in cancer - ultimately bringing better care to the thousands of individuals who come through our doors every year. These chairs are the hallmark of a great university and they are a symbol of hope in our fight against the myriad of diseases we call cancer.