April 3, 2009

University appoints cancer expert as new medicine chairman

Everett E. Vokes, an international authority on head, neck, and lung cancer who developed new approaches to cancer treatment, was appointed chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center and took the chairmanship March 9. Vokes remains director of Hematology and Oncology, deputy director of the Hospital’s Cancer Research Center, and a professor of medicine and chair of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B Respiratory Committee, a national research group sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Vokes is known for his research on innovative treatments. He pioneered a strategy of non-invasive treatment for patients with head and neck cancer that has become commonplace across the country. The treatment, which has increased survival rates, offers rounds of chemotherapy and radiation instead of surgery so that the cancer does not metastasize. He also is working on identifying ways to make induction chemotherapy, a method in which a chemical agent or drug will attack only malignant tissues in the body that will be more effective in fighting lung cancer before surgery is needed. Ezra Cohen, an associate professor of hematology and oncology who has worked at the Hospital since 2001 and considers Vokes a mentor, said Vokes’ work is internationally renowned. “He changed the paradigms globally in the way we view this disease,” Cohen said. Vokes, 54, has been named one of America’s top doctors eight times by healthcare research company Castle Connolly. He interned at Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center in Chicago and the University of Southern California prior to becoming a fellow at the University of Chicago Medical School in 1983.Cohen described Vokes as a generous and kind man who holds himself to professional standards of “fairness and integrity.” “As section chief, those are the two things you notice [about Vokes] right away. He tries to be as unbiased as possible, and will often put his interests second to ensure that he causes no perceived conflict or unfairness,” Cohen said.In a press release, James L. Madara, dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine and CEO of the University of Chicago Medical Center, said, “His innovative approach to cancer care has always been an inspiring example of how clinical work can frame research questions, leading to new ways of treating patients. That idea of bidirectional flow in research helps define what makes this institution great, and he is ideally suited to lead us as we pursue new discoveries and unparalleled patient care.” The Department of Medicine is the largest at the University, with over 300 full-time faculty members, according to its website.