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Collaborative spirit inspires endowed chair

By Jennifer Durgin

Collaboration' isn't a word that we merely trot out for grant applications," says Mark Israel, MD, director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center since 2001. "It's how we live and work, how we advance the cause of combating cancer every day."

During his tenure, Israel has fostered a culture in which interdisciplinary teams of scientists, physicians, and other caregivers work together to find new ways to prevent and treat cancer. It's that spirit of collaboration that inspired the Reverend Preston Kelsey and Virginia Kelsey to make a $5 million gift to the Geisel School of Medicine to establish a distinguished chair.

The newly established and endowed Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer supports the director of the Cancer Center in advancing innovative research that translates into clinical and preventive cancer care. This past summer, Israel was named the inaugural holder of the chair.

"We're really pleased with what he's been able to do as leader of the Cancer Center and with the place it has assumed in the world of cancer research," says Preston Kelsey. "The collaborative environment he's built has proven to be very successful."

Preston Kelsey, a retired Episcopal minister and 1958 Dartmouth College graduate, and Virginia Kelsey, an artist and sculptor, have deep ties to the Upper Valley region and returned to the area full-time 16 years ago. They are longtime supporters of the Cancer Center and close friends of its former director, O. Ross McIntyre, MD. They have known Israel since he was named director of the Cancer Center in 2001.

A professor of pediatrics and of genetics at the Geisel School of Medicine, Israel has mentored more than 75 students and fellows, published more than 200 papers, and received several prestigious national awards, including the Farber Award for outstanding contributions to neuro-oncology. As director of the Cancer Center, he has delivered on an ambitious agenda, expanding cancer research laboratories and clinical space and building strong research collaborations with Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. The Cancer Center includes about 250 active research projects led by 135 cancer scientists and attracts more than $68 million in grants each year from federal agencies and private foundations.

"That kind of collaboration is very important to us, and something that we enthusiastically embraced from the first time we heard Mark talk about it," says Preston Kelsey, whose family has been directly touched by cancer. "We wanted to support that."

New professorship in pediatric oncology

James Sargent, MD, is the inaugural recipient of the Scott M. and Lisa G. Stuart Professorship in Pediatric Oncology. A professor of pediatrics at Geisel and co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Sargent is also an international authority on the impact of mass media on risky behavior in childhood and adolescence and has written and spoken widely on a range of cancer prevention topics. The professorship, funded with a generous gift of $2.5 million from Scott and Lisa Stuart, is an investment in the Cancer Center's excellence and enduring leadership in advancing treatment, research, education, and prevention of childhood cancers.

"There are many ways to support kids fighting cancer," says Scott Stuart (D'81). "Preventing the onset of disease—and behaviors that increase cancer risk—is an exciting and forward-thinking way to go about it. As the parents of four children, that resonates with us. Jim Sargent has been a pioneer in this area, and we're proud to have him hold the chair that bears our names."

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Geisel School of Medicine at DartmouthDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College