Dr. Thompson answers the call
by Karen StammIt didn't take long for Ian Murchie Thompson Jr., M.D., to get a glimpse of how much his life was about to change as the new executive director of the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at the UT Health Science Center. On March 12, William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, Health Science Center president, announced the permanent appointment.
Dr. Thompson had been serving as the interim executive director since Oct. 23, 2009. The executive-level change was announced after Dr. Henrich accepted the resignation of Tyler Curiel, M.D., M.P.H., as executive director of the CTRC. Dr. Curiel, a professor of hematology and medical oncology and renowned researcher in ovarian cancer, expressed a desire to devote full attention to his laboratory and clinical research.
After the announcement was made, literally hundreds of people called Dr. Thompson's office requesting time to meet with him about various issues. Dr. Thompson ruefully acknowledged, "God still gives you only 24 hours a day and you do have to sleep a little bit of that."
The void created by Dr. Curiel's resignation as executive director prompted a decision to restructure the executive team and to bring in leaders "superbly equipped to hit the ground running for the sake of the community and cancer center patients," noted Dr. Henrich.
Dr. Thompson's ability to manage multiple roles with successful results convinced Dr. Henrich that Dr. Thompson was the right man for the job.
"I've been extremely fortunate in my career to have many opportunities and many folks who have looked after me. It's time for me to do that for other folks."
- Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D.
Hitting the ground running
During the first few days of his new post, Dr. Thompson demonstrated little need for sleep and boundless stores of energy. He maintained his previous responsibilities while finding two and a half days a week to run the cancer center.
"When Ian joined our urology faculty, it was a division of the Department of Surgery," Dr. Henrich said. "Ian grew it into a robust department. As chairman, he has increased the faculty four-fold. He has doubled the number of residents, has added fellowships and created a fine research team."
In addition to managing the steadily growing department, Dr. Thompson continues to thrive as a busy physician and surgeon. As a researcher, his work is recognized for changing global clinical practice. He is supported by two endowed chairs: the Henry B. and Edna Smith Dielmann Memorial Chair in Urologic Science and the Glenda and Gary Woods Distinguished Chair in Genitourinary Oncology. As a scholar, he has authored more than 400 journal articles and books. Recently, one of the leading cancer research groups, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, cited one of Dr. Thompson's papers as "one of the 15 most significant cancer research advances in 2009."
"I want him to bring the same kind of success to the CTRC he has brought to the Department of Urology," Dr. Henrich noted. "Take a premier cancer center and grow it so the people of San Antonio and South Texas will have the very best cancer center. We want people here to say, 'I don't need to leave South Texas if I have cancer.' We want people in other parts of the U.S. to say, 'If I have cancer, I want to go to CTRC for the very best treatment.'"
Dr. Thompson views this challenge as a privilege. "I've had the good fortune to be in organizations that are on the cusp of growth. I've been extremely fortunate in my career to have many opportunities and many folks who have looked after me. It's time for me to do that for other folks," he remarked.
One CTRC administrator considers Dr. Thompson to be a mentor. "He has an uncanny ability to ask the difficult question without letting people dodge it, and without being confrontational or dictating what the answer should be," said David Raney, chief administrative officer for the CTRC. Raney also appreciates Dr. Thompson's collaborative management style. "He's brought intothis venture an attitude of excitement. People want to push ideas forward."
Goals for growth and faculty recruitment
Establishing a strong financial base for the CTRC is Dr. Thompson's first priority. He and other executives have taken a number of steps to manage costs and increase revenue. "These measures will position us to add new, accomplished faculty members who will allow growth in the overall cancer programs," Dr. Thompson said. With more physicians in multiple specialties, the CTRC can see more patients and treat a wider variety of cancers. More physicians attract more referrals through networking with university and community physicians. They also can open more clinical trials that make new investigational treatments available to patients.
"We are currently concentrating our recruitment efforts on oncologists who will strengthen or establish strong clinical programs in four major disease groups: breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, lung cancer and genitourinary cancers," Dr. Thompson reported. "We also will further strengthen our programs in hematologic cancers, sarcomas and neurologic cancers. Alongside these superb clinicians will be a growing cadre of researchers in the basic sciences, providing new insights into improved care. We have scientists who have made discoveries that are begging to be taken into the clinic."
Dr. Thompson believes he is hard-wired to succeed because success means better care for patients.
"It's more than just the technical operation of infusing a drug or delivering radiation. We also want to help people understand that there's a range of treatments and that we can help them choose which one is right for them. We want to take care of their body and their soul," Dr. Thompson said. "Part of our responsibility is to give folks hope and to support them emotionally. We invest heavily at this institution in the person's whole being. Finally, and most importantly, we must invest in cancer prevention. My philosophy is: 'If we're not in the business of preventing cancer, essentially putting ourselves out of business, we're in the wrong business.'"
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