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YCC, Smilow Awardees Honored

April 01, 2024
by Naedine Hazell

Yale Cancer Center’s Annual Conclave was held March 26, 2024, to recognize scientific and clinical accomplishments by faculty and staff in 2023. Dr. Eric Winer, YCC Director and Smilow Cancer Hospital President and Physician-in-Chief, hosted the event and awards were presented to 18 members of the YCC and Smilow Cancer Hospital communities.

The Yale Cancer Center Clinical Cancer Research Award was presented to Pamela Kunz, MD, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine (Medical Oncology); Director, Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers; and Chief, GI Medical Oncology. Dr. Kunz was given the award for her “practice changing” work in the study “Randomized Study of Temozolomide or Temozolomide and Capecitabine in Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (ECOG-ACRIN E2211)” published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The Yale Cancer Center Translational Cancer Research Award was presented to Katerina Politi, PhD Professor of Pathology, Co-Leader, Cancer Signaling Networks, and Scientific Director, Center for Thoracic Cancers. Dr. Politi was given the award for “a whole career of translational research” and specifically her work and that of her lab in the study “Mammalian SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes promote tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistance in EGFR-mutant lung cancer” published in Cancer Cell.

The Yale Cancer Center Population Science Research Award was presented to Ilana Richman, MD, MHS, an assistant YSM professor, for her work in the study “Estimating Breast Cancer Overdiagnosis After Screening Mammography Among Older Women in the United States” published in the Annuals of Internal Medicine.

The Yale Cancer Center Basic Cancer Research Award was presented to Jason Sheltzer, PhD, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Oncology) and of Genetics for his work in the study “Oncogene-like addiction to aneuploidy in human cancers,” an August 2023 cover in Science. In making the award, the study was described as having “widespread research uses” that could lead “to new cancer therapies.”

The Ruth McCorkle Oncology Advanced Practice Provider (APP) Award was presented to Gineesha Abraham, APRN who was nominated by her collaborating physician who described her as an expert in breast cancer oncology, “meticulous, humble” and an “excellent communicator and tireless advocate” for her patients.

The prestigious Class of '61 Cancer Research Award was presented to both Nadya Dimitrova, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and to Sarah Goldberg, MD, MPH Associate Professor of Internal Medicine (Medical Oncology), Chief, Thoracic Oncology; Associate Director, Medical Oncology-Hematology Program; and Research Director, Center for Thoracic Cancers.

Kelly Olino, MD, FACS, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Oncology), Leader, Skin Cancer Surgery, Melanoma Program; Clinical Director of the Smilow Melanoma Program and James Clune, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery (Plastic); Leader, Multidisciplinary Care, Melanoma Program, received the Yale Cancer Center Clinical Excellence Award.

The Yale Cancer Center Award for Mentorship Excellence was presented to Maryam Lustberg, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine (Medical Oncology); Director, Center for Breast Cancer; and Chief, Breast Medical Oncology. She was described by Dr. Winer as “a really remarkable person. Maryam not only does an outstanding job with the breast program, but she is committed to those she works with” at all levels and even in other specialties.

The Yale Cancer Center Award for Teaching Excellence was presented to Michael Hurwitz, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Internal Medicine (Medical Oncology), who was described in some of his teaching evaluations (read at conclave) as “an incredibly passionate educator” and “one of the best teachers I have ever had.”

A new honor, the Yale Cancer Center Service Excellence Award, was given for the first time. It is made by the YCC director to a staff member in recognition of their extraordinary service and support toward accomplishing the goals and mission of the center. The inaugural award was presented to a “surprised and honored” Christal Esposito, BS, Program Coordinator, Research Affairs, who was described by Dr. Winer as someone who “truly works tirelessly and never seems to miss a beat. (She is) always there for everyone and has been absolutely fantastic…In spite of all sorts of obstacles, she came through for all of us.”

The Yale Cancer Center Award for Leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Award was presented to Paris Butler, MD, MPH, FACS, Associate Professor of Surgery (Plastic) and the Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Surgery for his work mentoring medical students, residents, and trainees.

Similarly, inaugural Yale Cancer Center Director's Awards, presented for exceptional service, went to:
Yang Zhou, PhD, MPH, Associate Director for Program Development, YCC. Dr. Winer described her as “truly indispensable” to leadership and program leaders in the preparation of the renewal application of the Cancer Center Support Grant for the National Cancer Institute, completed every five years, followed by an NCI visit in February. “And for everything that goes on in the Director’s office…we could have done it without you,” he said.
• Dr. Winer honored the “transformational work that resuscitated” the Clinical Trials program, resulting in “a sense that we can accomplish work in clinical research that we would never have been able to do before." Specifically, the awards went to Ian Krop, MD, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine (Medical Oncology); Director, Clinical Trials Office; Chief Clinical Research Officer, YCC; and Associate Director, Clinical Sciences YCC; Alyssa Gateman, MPH, CCRP, Executive Director, Clinical Trials Office; Executive Director, YCC, Clinical Trials Office; and Adam Roshka, MBA, YCC, Director of Finance and Operations.

Capping the evening with two standing ovations from the crowd of about 125 colleagues was the Yale Cancer Center Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Edward L. Snyder, MD, FACP, professor of Laboratory Medicine; Committee Chair, Conflict of Interest; Vice Chair, DSMC Committee, YCC; Chair, Membership Committee, YCC. Synder was honored for his “important and sustained contributions to our community” as a leader of the blood bank and transfusion medicine as well as grant review panels. Dr. Snyder, who said he was grateful and humbled by the recognition, mentioned many who had influenced his career with their guidance, advice and support and said how proud he was to have been part of the effort to “provide the tools…so that others could achieve their goals” in treatment and research.

Submitted by Naedine Hazell on March 25, 2024