Cancer Survivorship Expert Joins Faculty

November 24, 2008

by Dagny Stuart

A leading expert in cancer survivorship has joined Vanderbilt Medical Center to spearhead its efforts to meet the needs of adults and children facing a diagnosis of cancer and its aftermath.

Debra Friedman, M.D., has been named the E. Bronson Ingram Chair in Pediatric Oncology in the Department of Pediatrics.

She also is leader of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Cancer’s Prevention and Control Program and will serve as director of the REACH (Resources, Research, Education, Clinical Care, Health Promotion) for Survivorship Program.

This innovative program will integrate initiatives to meet needs of both pediatric and adult cancer survivors, regardless of where they have received their treatment. Offering clinical care, advocacy, education and access to research, it will be one of fewer than 10 such programs in the country.

“We are delighted to add such a talented pediatric cancer specialist to our growing team of researchers and clinicians,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Cancer Center director.

“There are nearly 12 million cancer survivors in the United States and much of the work with survivors has focused on children. Deb will use her knowledge and experience in childhood survivorship to develop similarly strong programs for adult cancer survivors.”

Previously, Friedman served in Seattle as director of the LiveStrong Survivorship Center of Excellence at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, director of the Cancer Survivorship Program at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, and member of the University of Washington faculty.

“I am excited about the opportunity to focus on cancer control and prevention at Vanderbilt,” said Friedman.

“We are curing more children and adults or keeping their cancer at bay for years, but those same successes are leading to new challenges in the area of survivorship. I am looking forward to working with the researchers and clinicians at Vanderbilt to bridge the gap between what we’re doing in childhood cancer and what we can do for adults diagnosed with cancer.”

Jonathan D. Gitlin, M.D., chair of Pediatrics and Physician-in-Chief of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, praised Friedman’s expertise.

“Deb Friedman is a unique and very special person with a proven track record in both cancer prevention and support for survivors. We are most fortunate that she will bring these talents to Vanderbilt where she will be a critical component of both our vibrant Cancer Center and our extraordinary Children’s Hospital.”

Robert Dittus, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Medicine, is among Medical Center leaders who helped recruit Friedman to Vanderbilt. “As medical professionals, we are increasingly challenged to provide a broader range of services to patients and to understand their evolving needs. Debra Friedman is ideally suited to help us identify and develop those services for children and adults.”

Friedman is a recipient of an Excellence in Research Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Janet M. Glasgow Memorial Award, presented by the American Medical Women’s Association to women who graduate first in their medical school class.

Her expertise is unmatched, said James Whitlock, M.D., director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. “She brings strong research skills as well as an in-depth understanding of patients and families to our program. Children who survive cancer often have special concerns and Deb is the perfect person to address those concerns.”

A native of New York City, Friedman received her medical degree from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She served her residency in General Pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, followed by fellowships in Hematology-Oncology at the Children’s Hospital and Cancer Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

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