Hematology-oncology fellows gather to celebrate program’s 40th anniversary

July 26, 2018

One hundred current and former fellows gathered at the Indiana State Museum July 20 to spend a commemorative evening with mentors and friends. There was much to celebrate at the IU Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Reunion: This is the 40th anniversary of the first graduating class of the hematology/oncology fellowship program at IU School of Medicine.

Since the inception of the fellowship program, approximately 150 hematologists and oncologists have been trained by IU faculty. The dedication and skill of the IU faculty have touched the lives of cancer patients throughout the United States and world. Currently, 61 former fellows practice at 24 academic institutions in the United States, and nearly 90 others have private practices in Indiana and 18 other states and countries.

“The reach of the IU program and its impact on patients and research worldwide make training here a very special honor,” said former fellow and reunion organizer Nasser H. Hanna, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Hanna trained as an IU fellow from 1998 until he joined the faculty in 2001. “No one has been more responsible for the foundation of cancer research, cancer care and training at Indiana University than the four men--affectionately referred to as the Four Horsemen--who are honored here tonight.” 

A moment was taken to recall the contributions of the late Stephen D. Williams, MD, who was the inaugural director of the IU Simon Cancer Center from 1992 until his death in 2009.

The other three “horsemen” were in attendance, including Patrick J. Loehrer, MD, IU Distinguished Professor, associate dean for cancer research and director of the IU Simon Cancer Center, and Larry Einhorn, MD, IU Distinguished Professor and professor of medicine. The third member of the founding team, George Sledge, MD, flew in from California for the event. Dr. Sledge now leads the Division of Oncology at Stanford University Medical Center.

The evening concluded with good news for future generations of IU hematology/oncology fellows. In gratitude for their training, the former fellows have come together to create an endowed alumni fellowship award to enhance the fellowship in perpetuity. Each year, current fellows will be invited to competitively apply for career development support to allow them to enhance their training or research. Gifts are still being accepted, but Amber Kleopfer Senseny, director of development at the IU Simon Cancer Center, reported that more than $347,000 had already been raised prior to the event.

The reunion was on the eve of the annual ASCO Review at IU, started by Dr. Einhorn 25 years ago. The review was originally created as a way to share the latest discoveries with junior faculty and fellows who typically did not attend the world’s largest gathering of oncology scientists and practitioners. Today, the IU meeting attracts hundreds of local oncologists, nurses, pharmacists and trainees to hear the highlights of the recent national meeting.

The value of the one-day program at IU was quickly recognized and the review has since spread to universities across the United States and 26 counties.

This year, 350 clinical oncologists, researchers, nurses, pharmacists and other cancer care providers gathered on the IUPUI campus for the 25th annual ASCO Review at IU. 

“This annual event is something that I and the rest of our faculty treasure,” Dr. Hanna, who for the first time organized the ASCO Review at IU, said. “It is the high point of the year to discuss the latest research advances and to see lots of friends and colleagues from throughout the region.”