Dr. Bart Scott, a medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome – diseases of the bone marrow that are sometimes referred to as “preleukemias” – on Monday received the 2016 Dr. Ali Al-Johani Award, which recognizes excellence in clinical patient care. He is the 14th Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center physician-scientist to receive the award, which comes with a $10,000 prize and a crystal plaque.
Scott, an associate member of the Transplantation Program in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch and director of Hematology and Hematologic Malignancies at Fred Hutch’s treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, received the honor from Dr. Oliver “Ollie” Press, acting senior vice president and director of the Hutch’s Clinical Research Division, during the division’s weekly noon seminar.
“Bart Scott is a truly outstanding transplant physician who embodies the best of medicine: superlative expertise, compassionate interactions with patients and families, and fabulous clinical judgment,” Press said. “We are truly fortunate to have him as a faculty member at the Fred Hutch and SCCA.”
Scott, also an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Oncology at the University of Washington, decided to become a doctor in high school after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. “After watching her go through what she did, and seeing the doctors work with her, I knew that I wanted to become a doctor, too,” he said.
After completing his first year of medical school at the University of South Alabama School of Medicine, his mother passed away. During his second year of medical school, Scott himself was diagnosed with cancer: Hodgkin lymphoma – a malignancy of the immune system. The experience had a profound influence on his life, Scott said. “I think it has made me more compassionate with what other patients experience and it has also taught me the importance of the time that I have.”
His treatment also gave him insight into participating in clinical research studies. “I have first-hand experience about the benefits of people participating in clinical trials,” said Scott, whose patient-care philosophy centers around patient education, particularly informing his patients about the advantages of participating in cutting-edge research studies.
The Dr. Ali Al-Johani Award began in 2001 with a $125,000 contribution from its namesake, a former Hutch leukemia patient from Saudi Arabia who was so grateful for the care he received he wanted to pay it forward by recognizing individuals who exemplify excellence in caring for patients.
Awardees are nominated by their peers and selected by a committee that includes representatives from nursing, quality and patient family services, clinical faculty and the Clinical Research Division director. Nominees must demonstrate excellence in science and clinical performance, empathy toward patients and willingness to work on clinical and administrative assistance to improve patient safety and quality care.
In accepting the honor, Scott said, “This means so much coming from all of you. I’ve learned so much from everyone,” acknowledging a number of colleagues in the room. “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
While the initial Al-Johani fund has expired, the award lives on, according to Leslie Sandberg, administrator of the Clinical Research Division. “Fred Hutch recognizes the importance of the contributions made by these individuals and will continue to support this annual award,” she said.
Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service
Fred Hutch adult-stem-cell scientist Dr. Beverly Torok-Storb has begun a four-year term on the National Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases Advisory Council. She received official notification of approval of her council position in March.
The 22 members of the council, which is established by law and charter, meet three times each year to advise the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, on its research portfolio, including broad issues of policy and second-level peer review of grant applications. The council includes both scientists and nonscientists who serve as liaisons between the institute and members’ research communities.
Torok-Storb is a member of Fred Hutch’s Clinical Research Division whose research on blood stem cell development contributed to the development of bone marrow transplantation as a cure for blood cancers and other hematologic diseases. Torok-Storb and her colleagues on the council represent the diverse areas of research under the institute’s purview: diabetes, obesity, nutrition, and diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs, digestive system, endocrine system, urologic system, kidneys, liver, and pancreas.
Torok-Storb says that she looks forward to bringing her unique perspective to NIDDK.
“I’m really happy that I may introduce new strategies for funding junior investigators and trainees,” she said.
While NIDDK’s hematology research funding focuses on noncancerous diseases, Torok-Storb said, “we need to understand normal hematopoiesis to make sense of blood diseases.”
As a council member, she also hopes to help strengthen collaboration between NIDDK and the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, another institute within the NIH that funds hematology research.
“There’s a possibility that the hematology group in NIDDK can have stronger connections to NHLBI, and they can leverage each other’s efforts,” she said.
Torok-Storb was invited to serve on the council last July and attended her first meeting by teleconference in January as an ad-hoc member before receiving her official notice of approval. She will attend her first council meeting as a full member in May.
Torok-Storb’s research on the regulation of blood cell production (hematopoiesis) has been continuously funded by NIDDK since she was a research fellow in the mid-1970s. Torok-Storb’s current NIDDK funding is for the Fred Hutch-based U54 Core Center of Excellence of Hematology, which she leads. The core center was funded with a five-year, $5 million cooperative agreement with NIDDK last year, superseding the P30 Center of Excellence in Hematology that was funded by NIDDK for 16 years. (An investigator’s service on the NIDDK Advisory Council has no bearing on their grant funding from the institute.) Torok-Storb’s other involvement with NIDDK includes serving as a grant reviewer.
Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service
Dr. Beti Thompson, director of Minority Health and Health Disparities research at Fred Hutch, will be a keynote speaker at the 2016 New Mexico Public Health Association annual conference, which will convene April 11-13 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Thompson will speak about the incidence and mortality rates of various cancers in southern New Mexico and innovative strategies to address cancer disparities focusing on community-based, participatory research.
“Among Hispanics in the southern part of New Mexico, breast cancer and colorectal cancer incidences are lower than those in the state as a whole, but the mortality rate for Hispanics is considerably higher than that of non-Hispanic whites,” Thompson said.
Hosts of the event include New Mexico State University, which has an ongoing, federally funded research partnership with Thompson and colleagues in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. The goal of the collaboration, which began 14 years ago, is to increase NMSU’s cancer-research capacity and expand the Hutch’s knowledge of and attention to cancer-related health disparities.
The other keynote speaker at the event will be Maya Schenwar, journalist, author, and editor of Truthout.org.
Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service