January 2020

January 2020 marks the beginning of a new year, the beginning of a new decade, and the successful completion of our every 5-year National Cancer Institute core grant renewal process. Our site visit, which took place on January 23, represented more than a year’s worth of preparations, rehearsals, and incredibly hard work by many UPMC Hillman Cancer Center faculty and staff.

The core grant renewal process is both a challenging and rewarding one, offering the opportunity to showcase our strengths, examine areas for growth, and highlight the people and programs that make Hillman an invaluable resource in cancer research and care. Every NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center must demonstrate excellence in all aspects of its operations, from research and patient care to education and community outreach, and Hillman has done that consistently since 1990 when we received our very first NCI CCC designation. I’m confident that we’ll receive a favorable score and earn not only recognition among the top cancer centers in the country, but also the crucial NCI funding that helps advance our research.

There are so many people from UPMC, Hillman, and Pitt to thank for their exceptional work and steadfast support throughout our grant process. Mr. Jeffrey Romoff, UPMC’s visionary president and chief executive officer; Dr. Art Levine, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and the John and Gertrude Pedersen Dean, School of Medicine, at Pitt; Dr. Stan Marks, chairman of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center; Chuck Bogosta, president of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center; Dr. Ed Chu, our deputy director and co-leader of the Cancer Therapeutics Program; and Dr. Chad Ellis, our deputy director for research administration have all provided invaluable leadership and foresight. We were pleased that incoming Dean and SVC, Dr. Anantha Shekhar, was able to rearrange his schedule to personally express his commitment to supporting Hillman as he assumes his role in June 2020. 

Our associate directors, program co-leaders, shared resource directors, and Research Executive Advisory Committee members worked for many months not only on our written grant application, but also on many rehearsals for our site visit presentations. I’d like to thank Dr. Carolyn Anderson, Dr. Leonard Appleman, Dr. Nathan Bahary, Dr. Chris Bakkenist, Dr. Sunny Bao, Dr. Michael Becich, Dr. Catherine Bender, Dr. Annerose Berndt, Dr. Jan Beumer, Dr. Dana Bovbjerg, Dr. Adam Brufsky, Dr. Tullia Bruno, Dr. Ron Buckanovich, Dr. Uma Chandran, Dr. Rivka Colen, Dr. Rajiv Dhir, Dr. Devin Dressman, Dr. Leisha Emens, Dr. SJ Gao, Dr. Jim Herman, Dr. John Kirkwood, Dr. Adrian Lee, Dr. Linda McAllister-Lucas, Dr. Joseph Newsome, Dr. Yuri Nikiforov, Dr. Daniel Normolle, Dr. Steffi Oesterreich, Dr. Patty Opresko, Dr. Bhanu Pappu, Dr. Lyn Robertson, Dr. Peg Rosenzweig, Dr. John Schmitz, Dr. Shivendra Singh, Dr. Heath Skinner, Dr. Ben Van Houten, Dr. Dario Vignali, Dr. Simon Watkins, Dr. Theresa Whiteside, Dr. Peter Wipf, Dr. Antoinette Wozniak, Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, and Dr. Hassane Zarour for their vital contributions to this process.

I would like to thank the many individuals from Catering Services, Clinical Research Services, Environmental Services, Facilities, Finance, IT, and Parking Services teams, along with our Hillman administrative assistants, for their excellent work throughout this process.

And last but certainly no means least, I extend sincere thanks to our core grant administration team of Sharon Coutch, Stacy Fitzsimmons, Lisa George, Dr. Moira Hitchens, Dr. Sid Kar, Alyce Katsur, Jamie Lehneke, Dr. Sabina Robinson, and Lola Thompson. I’m humbled by your commitment and energy, and sincerely grateful for your unmatched efforts.

I look forward to sharing our results with you as soon as I can and thank you again for your ongoing commitment to our mission.


Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD