Spotlight: Cancer center director leads the fight

BY SAM LANE | FEBRUARY 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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George Weiner has seen two very different sides of Dance Marathon.

The first was performing in skits at the “Big Event” (which involved clothes Weiner hadn’t worn “since a few years back”), and the second — the one in which he spends the bulk of his life — is his position as director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

His job is mostly administrative, but the 53-year-old still has a passion for research, and he is a professor in the internal medicine department who’s been on UI faculty for 20 years. He trained as a physician in internal medicine, hematology, and oncology.

“We really bring together cancer-related activities wherever it’s taking place,” said Weiner, who referred to the Holden Center as a “matrix cancer center,” which serves the UI Hospital and Clinics, Carver College of Medicine, and other university departments and colleges.

Though Weiner is not directly involved with Dance Marathon, he said he’s very appreciative of the event that supports a cause to which he’s devoted his life.

“The sense of community and teamwork and increasing the profile of the work we do here in and of itself is very, very valuable,” he said.

Weiner, sitting in his office and facing two wall-length shelves filled with books, said he’s always been interested in research. In fact, when he came to the UI, he split time between seeing patients and investigating the use of the immune system to treat cancer. He continued until about 10 years ago, when he took his current position at the nationally renowned organization.

The Holden Center is recognized as a National Cancer Institute-designated facility, meaning it excels in conducting basic laboratory research, testing new treatments, and working to understand the burden of cancer in the community.

“I’m very proud of it,” Weiner said. “I’m particularly proud of the outstanding people I get to work with that are attracted here because of the desire to work together and as part of a team.”

His colleagues believe much of this success can be attributed to the director’s leadership.

“He’s extraordinarily committed and dedicated to cancer research and finding a cure,” said John Buatti, the center’s deputy director of clinical care. “He’s helping other people in the university achieve that as well.”

Professor Roger Gingrich, the center’s associate director of quality, said Weiner’s commitment and experience are key elements keeping Holden at the top of national rankings.

“He’s fully committed to the mission of making us the best player we can be locally, regionally, and nationally,” Gingrich said. “He’s a comprehensive guy. He does not miss anything in trying to solve the cancer problem.”

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