News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Albuquerque, NM - The University of New Mexico Cancer Center and the UNM School of Medicine offers its congratulations and gratitude to three outstanding physicians who have been key contributors to the Center’s vital work over the past decade. Dr. Robert Hromas, Dr. Claire Verschraegen, and Dr. Dennie Jones have each distinguished themselves during their time in New Mexico and have made lasting contributions to the Center’s mission of delivering compassionate, cutting-edge cancer care to New Mexicans and conducting ground-breaking research into the causes and cures of cancer for the benefit of New Mexicans and people worldwide. Each of these individuals has now been recruited to other medical schools to assist them in their development of a similarly successful National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

“We have an incredible team of 85 cancer physicians and 125 research scientists,” said Dr. Cheryl Willman, Director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center, the Official Cancer Center of the State of New Mexico and one of only 66 National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers in the nation. “Drs. Hromas, Verschraegan, and Jones have been integral to our team. As they leave us this spring to step into major leadership roles at other medical schools around the nation who wish to develop pre-eminent cancer programs as we have done, we feel tremendous pride in their achievements and are grateful for their efforts. It is a credit to UNM, to New Mexico, and to all that we have accomplished over the past decade that prominent medical centers around the country now look to us as a source of top-quality candidates for leadership roles. We have already recruited two new faculty members to replace these faculty and we are conducting national recruitments to identify new faculty from leading NCI Centers who can take our programs to the next level.”

Dr. Robert Hromas has served as the Deputy Director of the UNM Cancer Center and the Chief of Hematology/Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine in the School of Medicine since 2003. A leading authority in blood cancer research, he has received national attention for his discovery that the new cancer drug Gleevec was being prescribed less frequently for elderly patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, a finding that fueled a national debate on age discrimination in cancer treatment.

Effective February 14, Dr. Hromas will begin his new position as the Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, which seeks to develop an NCI Cancer Center. “Dr. Hromas is an exceptional scientist, clinician, and leader,” said Dr. Pope Moseley, Regents’ Professor and Chair of Internal Medicine at the University of New Mexico. “He has been a great asset to UNM whose legacy is firmly in place. We are excited to see this next phase of his contributions to the cancer field unfold and we have been honored to mentor and support him during this phase of his career.”

Dr. Claire Verschraegan, a medical oncologist, is Professor of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine and has directed many of the UNM Cancer Center’s early phase clinical trials in cancer therapies. Dr. Verschraegan has been recruited to be the new Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Vermont School of Medicine, starting in June. She will also serve as the Interim Director of the Vermont Cancer Center as they complete a national recruitment for a new Director and seek to gain NCI Designation.

Dr. Dennie Jones, also a medical oncologist and an expert in lung cancer, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Jones has been recruited to the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine where he will assist the Center in the development of outreach and clinical trials programs to facilitate that Center’s continued development.

“All of the people of New Mexico should be extremely grateful that these three physicians have dedicated this phase of their lives here to assist in the development of the UNM Cancer Center,” noted Dr. Cheryl Willman, Director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center. “While we are sad they are leaving, we are also proud of their accomplishments. In academic medicine, it is great to have the opportunity to lead. Their recruitment is a reminder that New Mexico has much to offer the rest of the nation. We wish them well, and know they will continue to contribute enormously to our field.”


With new philanthropic gifts, the UNM Cancer Center is engaged in recruiting several new physicians and research scientists to New Mexico, from other national NCI Cancer Centers, in order to continue to build its programs to the next phase of development. These new recruitments will be announced this spring as these physicians and families re-locate to New Mexico.


Contact: Luke Frank, 272-3322