Schwartz Named Chair of UTHSC Department of Radiation Oncology

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Dr. David Schwartz

David Schwartz, MD, FACR, has been named chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Dr. Schwartz, who joined the UTHSC Department of Radiation Oncology in 2016, is an internationally recognized physician researcher, whose work aims to improve the treatment and survivorship of cancer patients, regardless of social or financial status. He serves as the founding director of the Center for Health Equity at UTHSC, and is a co-leader of the UTHSC Cancer Program, with a focus on developing patient-facing digital technology to improve quality and access of cancer care in the Mid-South.

“Radiation oncology is the original personalized, targeted, high-value cancer treatment,” Dr. Schwartz said. “Our department is poised to help our school assume rightful national leadership in the pursuit of comprehensive value-based care models and equitable cancer care for at-risk populations.”

Dr. Schwartz is the founding medical director of the Community COVID-19 Testing Program in the UTHSC College of Medicine/University Clinical Health, as well as the principal investigator of the Memphis Pandemic Health Informatics System (MEMPHI-SYS) Regional COVID-19 Data Registry.

Early in the pandemic, he led the rapid establishment of the drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Tiger Lane at the Mid-South Fairgrounds in collaboration with the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis. The site, one of the first and the largest drive-through testing sites in the city, opened March 20, 2020, and was staffed initially primarily by UTHSC medical students under the supervision of physician faculty. Students and faculty from other colleges later joined. Opened in 72 hours, the site tested approximately 150-200 people a day by appointment and became a valuable training spot for medical students.

Dr. Schwartz led the set-up of the drive-through COVID-19 testing site at the Mid-South Fairgrounds in Memphis.

For this effort, Dr. Schwartz was recognized by the Memphis Business Journal in 2020 with a Healthcare Hero Award.

Dr. Schwartz works closely with dozens of academic, business, education, and city leaders throughout Memphis to discover community-inspired paths to better health.

He collaborates with UTHSC’s data science programs to examine local disparities in radiotherapy interruption rates to identify patients in need of support. In collaboration with outside national centers, he is developing patient-centered interventions to improve engagement and care quality for at-risk cancer patients.

“Our department is literally an academic startup, born from significant changes in the Memphis medical scene,” Dr. Schwartz said. “We plan to build the city’s first truly academic Radiation Oncology Department from the foundation up and with all the latest bells and whistles. But it’s our people who have made this challenging transition possible and fun. Nothing is as energizing as creating something new with partners you enjoy, respect, and learn from. We all know why we’re doing this, to serve a city that remains underserved.”

Dr. Schwartz has served as a member of key national research steering committees, including the National Cancer Institute’s Previously Untreated Locally Advanced (PULA) Head and Neck Cancer Committee, and the Core Committee for Head and Neck Cancer at NRG Oncology (a nonprofit oncological clinical research organization). He has been repeatedly named to the Best Doctors and Castle Connolly Top Doctors lists and was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Radiology. He has served in committee leadership at the American Society of Radiation Oncology in the fields of Health Informatics and Cancer Disparities. He has also founded and directed several residency training programs in radiation oncology.

An accomplished researcher, Dr. Schwartz has received several dozen federal, state, foundation, and industry grants focused on advanced cancer imaging, targeted radiosensitization, stereotactic radiotherapy, mobile digital health, and clinical treatment trials. He led the first trial, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, to study adaptive radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. He led the first prospective U.S. trial, sponsored by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute (CPRIT)  of Texas, to test stereotactic radiotherapy for larynx cancer, and continues to collaborate with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, to make this available to patients here in Memphis.

Dr. Schwartz has published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, scientific abstracts and book chapters, with contributions to high-impact journals including the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the Journal of Oncology Practice, Clinical Cancer Research, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, Radiotherapy & Oncology, and the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. He has contributed to or edited several textbooks, and has presented numerous keynotes, educational lectures, and abstracts to national and international scientific society meetings.

Dr. Schwartz graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and literature from Stanford University and received his MD degree from David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He completed an internship at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and his residency at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

“This is a city deeply in need of academic specialty care, particularly cancer care, that culturally resonates with its community and helps to ensure equity and dignity for all,” he said. “Our department’s singular priority this year is to sow seeds for a deep and permanent relationship with our neighbors. Our academic and clinical programs are focused on Memphis, especially its most vulnerable residents.”

Scott Strome, MD, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine, said Dr. Schwartz is a highly successful academician whose work focuses on helping the underserved to access medical care.  “He is truly committed to Memphis and we look forward to supporting him as he grows the region’s first academic radiation oncology practice as part of the UTHSC Cancer Program,” he said.