Park named director of Hematology and Oncology at VICCOct. 21, 2020, 3:47 PM
by Tom Wilemon
After serving as interim director since Jan. 1, Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD, Donna S. Hall Professor of Breast Cancer Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been named director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology.
Park, an internationally renowned breast cancer expert, is a leader in the field of PIK3CA gene mutations. In 2004, he was the first to identify a high frequency of PIK3CA mutations in breast cancer and then discovered their contributions toward oncogenic phenotypes. He is associate director for Translational Research, co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program and director of Precision Oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).
“Dr. Park has demonstrated incredible leadership in steering the division through the pandemic as interim director,” said Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine. “His vision for taking this strong unit into the future is exciting. Opportunities in hematology and cancer research and the prospects for new treatment innovations have never been more vibrant. The Vanderbilt faculty are at the forefront of these advances, and Dr. Park is exactly the person to lead this division through this transformation in care.”
Park came to Vanderbilt in 2018 from the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
His work, including the generation of genetically modified cell lines, has been widely cited, and requests for his cell lines have led to important discoveries by other investigators.
He has also made fundamental contributions to the field of drug resistance, including hormone therapy resistance and liquid biopsies.
He led the Division of Hematology and Oncology on an interim basis after Rathmell left the position to lead the Department of Medicine.
“It has been an absolute honor to have led this outstanding division during the past nine months,” Park said. “Although the pandemic has certainly had its toll on patients, providers, morale and finances, our division faculty, staff, trainees and supporters have never wavered. We have met the challenge and continue to provide world class care for our patients as well as outstanding groundbreaking research and education for learners at all levels. The way our division members have responded in crisis speaks volumes to who we are and inspired me to stay as permanent division director.
“I want to thank everyone in our division for their hard work and support, and also thank Drs. Rathmell and Pietenpol for their commitment and faith in me for leading this incredible group of people,” Park said.
At Vanderbilt, he has organized and leads several molecular tumor boards focused on precision oncology. In July 2019, he became associate director for basic research in the division, before being named interim director.
“Dr. Park is a research leader who inspires his colleagues and a physician who is committed to providing patients with high quality and personalized care,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, director of VICC, Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC and holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development.
“In the relatively short period he has been at Vanderbilt, he has implemented initiatives that are already transforming care for people with cancer both within and beyond the catchment area we serve. The VICC HOPE molecular tumor board, which he founded and leads, allows community-based clinicians to consult with our highly specialized cancer experts. This is just one example of the impact he has made.”
Park received his undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Chicago in 1989. He then completed a dual MD, PhD training program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1995. He completed a residency in internal medicine and hematology/oncology fellowship training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2001, Park finished a postdoctoral research fellowship in cancer genetics at Johns Hopkins. He then joined the faculty in the Department of Oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and held several positions including associate dean of Postdoctoral Affairs for the School of Medicine and associate director for Research Training and Education for the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center.