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UTHSC College of Medicine Forms New Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Cancer Program

The new UTHSC Cancer Program aims to elevate cancer care in the region, combining expert clinical care, cutting-edge research (much of it being done in the Cancer Research Building on the Memphis campus, shown here), and education and training for future physicians.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine has formed the UTHSC Cancer Program, a new comprehensive, multidisciplinary initiative consisting of a group of university faculty clinicians, who will provide cancer care across multiple university-affiliated hospital systems and clinical practice groups in the region.

The new program includes physicians in all cancer-related specialties and is centered around evidence-based interdisciplinary tumor board conferences that develop the best personalized treatment plan for each patient. The UTHSC Cancer Program also features a robust cancer research center with clinical trials and investigative efforts in basic, translational, population, and clinical sciences.

“This program was created with a mission to provide exceptional cancer care for the patients of Memphis and the Mid-South through compassion, collaboration, innovation, research, and education,” said David Shibata, MD, FACS, FASCRS, who has been named executive director and chief medical officer for the UTHSC Cancer Program. Dr. Shibata, an internationally recognized authority on the care of patients with colorectal cancer, also is the Harwell Wilson Alumni Endowed Chair in Surgery, and a professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at UTHSC.

“We really want to elevate cancer care for the region,” Dr. Shibata said. “What makes the UTHSC Cancer Program unique is the combination of nationally and internationally renowned leadership with evidence-based care, cutting-edge research and clinical trials, and the education of the cancer physicians of the future.”

The UTHSC Cancer Program will provide “a next-level” of care for cancer patients, Dr. Shibata said. “We plan to grow our network of outstanding physicians, researchers, and educators to benefit the local community, the state, and beyond.”

UTHSC College of Medicine Executive Dean Scott Strome, MD, and Dr. Shibata, along with a steering committee of highly accomplished specialists, will direct and facilitate the growth of the UTHSC Cancer Program. The committee includes Neil Hayes, MD, MS, MPH, medical oncology; David Schwartz, MD, radiation oncology; and Martin Fleming, MD, surgical oncology.

Dr. Strome is an internationally recognized Head & Neck Surgical Oncologist. He completed his medical school training at Harvard Medical School and residency at the University of Michigan Medical School. After completing a fellowship in Head & Neck surgical oncology/reconstruction, Dr. Strome joined the faculty of the Mayo Clinic, as a clinician scientist. While at Mayo, Dr. Strome played an integral role in defining the therapeutic potential of a new class of immunomodulatory drugs, called checkpoint inhibitors, that changed the way cancer is treated around the world. He subsequently moved to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he chaired the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and co-founded the tumor immunology program at the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Dr. David Shibata

Dr. Shibata has trained at or held academic appointments at several world-renowned institutions, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, where he completed his residency in general surgery and a research fellowship in cancer biology, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where he completed a clinical fellowship in surgical oncology. Prior to his arrival in Memphis in 2015, he was a professor and chief of Colorectal Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

Dr. Shibata sits on the board of directors of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), is a member of the Lower GI Expert Panel for the American Joint Commission on Cancer and is chair of the Colorectal Cancer Disease-Site Working Group of the Society of Surgical Oncology. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Shibata is an accomplished clinical, translational, and laboratory researcher, and is the principal investigator for a molecular laboratory and epidemiologic cancer research program.

Among his many roles with UTHSC and its affiliated entities, Dr. Hayes is the division chief of Hematology and Oncology at UTHSC, the Van Vleet Endowed Professor in Medical Oncology, and the director of the Research Center of the UTHSC Cancer Program. He is internationally recognized as a key contributor to developing The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a $300 million, groundbreaking, multisite project to understand cancer at its molecular level through genome sequencing and extensive data analysis. As a chemotherapy physician, Dr. Hayes is an expert in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancers, and tumors of the mouth, throat, tonsils, tongue, and salivary glands. He also conducts and oversees research in his labs at UTHSC and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Dr. Hayes earned his medical degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He completed his residency at Boston University School of Medicine and a clinical fellowship at Tufts New England Medical Center. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Dr. Hayes also holds a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and a Master of Science degree from Tufts New England School of Medicine. He is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Steering Committee for Head and Neck Cancer, one of the co-chairs for the Head and Neck Committee for the clinical trials cooperative group, NRG Oncology, and founder of GeneCentric Therapeutics, Inc.

Professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at UTHSC, Dr. Schwartz is an internationally recognized physician researcher, who joined the university in 2016. He received his medical degree from the Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and completed an internship at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and a residency at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

He has trained and worked at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and UT Southwestern in Dallas. He is the founder and director of the Center for Health Equity in the College of Medicine at UTHSC and leads multi-institutional, grant-supported research programs designed to improve the quality, equity, and effectiveness of treatment for all cancer patients regardless of race, ethnicity, or income. Dr. Schwartz serves on multiple national treatment guideline and research panels for head and neck cancers and serves as the founding principal investigator for the COVID-19 pandemic data consortium for the Memphis region.

A native Memphian and a 1986 graduate of the College of Medicine at UTHSC, Dr. Fleming is a professor of surgery and chief of the UTHSC Division of Surgical Oncology. Dr. Fleming is a nationally recognized authority in the treatment of melanoma, sarcoma, and breast cancer. He is an expert member of the NCCN Melanoma Guidelines Panel and the Society of Surgical Oncology’s Melanoma/Sarcoma Disease Site Working Group. He also serves as the Melanoma Site Expert for the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Quality Committee. Dr. Fleming received residency training at UT Southwestern in Dallas and completed a surgical oncology fellowship at the Medical College of Virginia.

“We have recruited an incredible group of cancer care luminaries from across the country to the UTHSC College of Medicine in Memphis with the simple goal of providing world-class cancer care for our communities and beyond,” Dr. Strome said. “We look forward to helping all of those in need of cancer care, while inspiring the next generation of providers, and transforming the way cancer is treated through groundbreaking research.”