Last month, the Hillman Cancer Center Gala marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI). This festive event recognized the contributions of so many of our supporters–individuals, patient advocacy organizations, philanthropies, sports teams, and corporate sponsors. We could not accomplish even a fraction of our work without the support of local and national organizations and events, including Glimmer of Hope, Chris4Life, Komen for the Cure, Pittsburgh Sarcoma Foundation, the 3-2-1 Ride, Strides for Life, Light the Night, and so many more. All of these groups are galvanized by passionate patients and families and provide the vital funds for our research and care.
Frequently our UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter experts are also at the center of these activities because of their passion to give back as volunteer leaders. Here are just a few examples of our cancer team members who work “overtime.” Judy Herstine from Magee-Women's Hospital of UPMC serves as President of the Pittsburgh chapter for Komen for the Cure. She will be followed by Stephanie Dutton, vice president for Medical Oncology for UPMC CancerCenter, who currently serves as first vice-president. Our own Stanley Marks, M.D., chairman of UPMC CancerCenter, serves as President of our local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Volunteerism is truly at the heart of all we do and can also be manifested in other ways. UPCI researchers volunteer their time and effort as peer reviewers of research in order to help governmental and private organizations identify and evaluate the most promising scientific directions. It would not be possible for me to name all of the dedicated scientists who serve on these study sections. But among them are Steffi Oesterreich, Ph.D. and Ben Van Houten, Ph.D., both professors of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh, who currently serve as the chair of study sections for the National Institutes of Health. UPCI researchers also help to set the vision and prioritize grant funding for our cancer funding agencies through their service on national advisory boards. For example, Patrick Moore, M.D., M.P.H., leader of our Cancer Virology Program, serves as a member of the Council for Extramural Grants for the American Cancer Society, helping to determine which researchers will receive its highly competitive grants. And all of us are thrilled that UPCI researcher and Professor of Pathology Yuan Chang, M.D., was named by President Obama to serve as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board, the panel charged with advising the NCI Director on the activities of the National Cancer Program, including the final review of research grants. These individuals and many more are helping to shape the landscape of cancer research across the nation and the world and we know that the scientific discoveries fueled by this research will translate into better care.
In this brief note of recognition of our many volunteers—named and unnamed—who drive our mission, it behooves me to recognize an individual who was at the center of our mission: the consummate volunteer, Elsie Hillman. Without her (and her husband, Henry) there would be no Hillman Cancer Center, Hillman Scholars program, Herberman Conference Center, or many of the critical elements that we rely on to advance our research, care, education, and community service activities. All of us are simply following her example of a life-long career of service by seeking to build on her legacy to advance cancer research and care in Pittsburgh and across the nation.