AUSTIN, Texas — S. Gail Eckhardt, a visionary cancer leader, educator and research innovator, will serve as the inaugural director of the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.
Eckhardt also has been appointed associate dean of the medical school. She will oversee the creation of a transdisciplinary cancer research program at UT Austin, one that will lead to new models of prevention, treatment, patient-centered cancer care; and new models of teaching and training future doctors.
The appointment was made possible by a $6 million recruitment grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), which the agency’s Oversight Committee approved today.
“The LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes will build on the knowledge gained from LIVESTRONG’s unparalleled work with those affected by cancer to revolutionize the way we think about survivorship,” said UT President Gregory L. Fenves. “Add to that the tremendous capabilities of The University of Texas at Austin and the Dell Medical School, and the result is a collaboration that will save lives. Dr. Eckhardt is the ideal person to lead our institute.”
The LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes were created through a $50 million donation by LIVESTRONG to the medical school in 2014. The institutes seek to reinvent the way cancer patients and survivors are cared for and supported – rethinking the range of cancer care from prevention to diagnosis, treatment and survivorship while focusing on patients’ lives within a framework of novel patient-centered research.
Eckhardt comes to the Dell Medical School from the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus, where she led the Division of Medical Oncology for eight years, holds the Stapp/Harlow Endowed Chair for Cancer Research, is associate director of translational research, and directs the Phase I Program at the NCI-designated University of Colorado Cancer Center.
There, she helped to lead the growth and expansion of the cancer research and clinical programs, shifting their focus to strategies that integrate these functions and center them on individual patients. She developed a disease-focused team devoted to marrying superb patient care and cutting-edge research. These efforts helped elevate the national rankings of both the University of Colorado Cancer Center and University of Colorado Health — now ranked among the top 25 academic hospitals.
She graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and, before moving to Colorado, served as associate director of clinical research at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, Institute for Drug Development, in San Antonio.
“The Dell Medical School and the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes are poised to break new ground by developing and promoting new models of patient-centered cancer care and research,” said Eckhardt, who will begin work immediately and take the reins of the institutes full time in January. “I’m pleased to join Texas’ extraordinary team of researchers and innovators who are committed to enhancing the overall quality of life for those living with cancer.”
In her new post, Eckhardt will oversee the design of new care models in cancer diagnosis and treatment, using a multidisciplinary team-based approach. She will build disease-focused research teams and an innovative developmental therapeutics program, leveraging the assets of The University of Texas at Austin and collaborations with CPRIT, the LIVESTRONG Foundation and cancer institutes within the state, said Dell Med Dean Clay Johnston.
“Dr. Eckhardt will lead the charge for the Dell Medical School in rethinking the full continuum of cancer care, from prevention to diagnosis, treatment and beyond, all with a focus on the patient’s needs, values and preferences, building on the excellent care already provided in the community,” Johnston said. “Her recruitment marks a definitive step into the international world of cancer research for the school and this community as a whole.”
“LIVESTRONG has devoted 20 years to serving people affected by cancer and gathering data about their experiences and outcomes. Our aim is to revolutionize cancer care, not only reaching more patients but fostering a new culture of person-centered care,” said Greg Lee, president of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. “The institutes, under the leadership of Dr. Eckhardt, will be positioned to create a model not only for Austin but for all communities.”