Reflections on my Term as Chair

By Elizabeth Bloom, M.D.Dr. Bloom at Lin Acc-sm-cropped.jpg

As I approach the end of my term as chairperson of the MD Anderson Alumni & Faculty Association, I reflect on the amazing changes I have seen at MD Anderson Cancer Center and in the Alumni & Faculty Association over my tenure. When I entered the position in September 2007, the Alumni & Faculty Association was developing an online directory of our alumni under the leadership of Dr. Toya Candelari. We now have over 15,000 individuals in our database, and continue to search for lost members and their contact information.

For the first time in 2007, our Annual Houston Alumni Dinner included a silent auction to raise funds for a local organization within the community. In the case of 2007, the Houston Food Bank joined us, and in 2008, the American Red Cross.

In September 2009 came Hurricane Ike and a declining economy. Spending was curtailed not only within our Alumni & Faculty Association, but also within our institution, the Houston area, and around the nation. However, with challenges comes innovation. We have seen the development of the Center for Global Oncology within MD Anderson Cancer Center. This has brought MD Anderson faculty, staff, knowledge and research to Regional Care Centers in the surrounding Houston area, other facilities within the United States and in foreign countries. Most recently, MD Anderson Cancer Center has partnered with American Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey bringing MD Anderson faculty and staff to run their radiation oncology department.

Following suit, the Alumni & Faculty Association has now developed an International Subcommittee with the goal to have international chapters within the Alumni & Faculty Association. This idea was first developed by our previous Alumni & Faculty Association chair, Dr. Joya Chandra. We now have a first international chapter in Turkey, led by Dr. Ugur Selek, Adjunct Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Department Chief of the Radiation Treatment Center at American Hospital. This first chapter was able to be developed through the collaboration of Global Oncology, Physician Relations, the Alumni & Faculty Association, and MD Anderson alumni living in Turkey. We hope to develop and grow additional chapters at our sister institutions. The international collaboration among alumni and faculty of MD Anderson can further our institution's mission to eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation and the world.

Another first came with the recipient of the Mike Hogg Award for 2009, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn. She was the first female to be presented with this award in its 50-year history. Earlier this year, she was received with a standing-room-only audience in the Hickey Auditorium and two overflow auditoriums, where her award and lecture were simulcast. Although selected for the Mike Hogg award prior to the news, she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her co-discovery of telomerase. She has done significant research investigating stress and its effect on telomerase and telomeres.

Throughout my term as chair, the Alumni & Faculty Association has maintained an emphasis on the support of educational trainees and students of both MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Our major fundraising is for education. The Education Fund supports several awards programs, which are a tradition at MD Anderson, such as the Trainee Excellence Awards, Trainee of the Quarter Awards and Trainee Research Day Awards. We have plans to fund undergraduate scholarships and fellowships for graduate trainees, as well. As always, we encourage contributions to this fund.

Alumni member donations will be acknowledged on a new display that is scheduled to be installed in the Pickens Academic Tower this summer. The display will also feature our Distinguished Alumnus Awardees.

I have enjoyed my term as chair of the MD Anderson Alumni & Faculty Association. I look forward to my continued participation in this exciting time at MD Anderson, not only in Houston but around the world.