The new director of the Abramson Cancer Center is putting his passion for interdisciplinary teamwork at the heart of his plans to foster research and improve patient care.
Chi Van Dang was appointed the new director of the Center at the beginning of the month. Dang will oversee operations for the comprehensive center, which includes departments for basic research, clinical care, outcomes research and patient psychology. Dang will also work with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and other hospitals in Pennsylvania linked to the Penn Cancer Network, a group of hospitals that are recognized for cancer patient care.
Originally from Saigon, Vietnam, Dang came to the United States in 1967, earning a bachelors degree in chemistry from University of Michigan in 1975. He later earned a PhD in chemistry at Georgetown University and attended medical school at The Johns Hopkins University. Dang was heavily influenced by his professors while attending Johns Hopkins, developing a strong interest in hematology-oncology and patient care. After being recruited back to Johns Hopkins, Dang spent 10 years working as the chief of the division of Hematology before stepping up to serve as the vice dean for research at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Although Dang has an extensive history with Johns Hopkins, Penn’s research and clinical offerings attracted him. “There is tremendous excellence here in terms of basic cancer research, as well as very high-level clinical delivery in terms of cancer care,” Dang said.
However, Dang was most interested in the opportunity for interdisciplinary or translational medical research at Penn. “This is really a great time to bridge between the sciences,” Dang said, regarding the opportunity to take “translational science and bring it to the clinic to change the paradigm of how we treat cancer.”
In pursuit of that goal, Dang is leading the Abramson Center in efforts to build “centers that focus on the patient,” he said. These centers will look at specific types of cancer and gather resources — such as scientists, clinicians, outcomes researchers, doctors and nurses — with expertise in specialized cancer treatments. The Center will “build dream teams to solve major problems,” supported by Penn’s “commitment to resource these centers,” Dang explained.
Applications for various centers will be accepted by the end of this year. “It is kind of like an internal competition,” Dang said. “Faculty will have to assemble into teams willing to work together in order to compete for funding.” Only one application can be accepted per year, but the Abramson Center will continue inviting back attractive proposals.
Dang is passionate about collaboration within his field. “Teams should be recognized,” Dang said. “It’s about catalyzing people to get together … I think that people will find it exciting to work in teams and do something bigger than what they could do themselves.”
Dang’s dedication to teamwork is matched only by his commitment to patients. “We have to always remind ourselves that we are here because we want to make a difference for the patients,” he said. “Reminding ourselves every day of that will help us to focus more sharply on what the job is … to generate new hope for patients.”Comments powered by Disqus
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