December 16, 2005

Lukens’ gift to help fight childhood cancer

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John Lukens, M.D., and his wife, Mary Macauley, are devoted to battling childhood cancer.

Lukens’ gift to help fight childhood cancer

John N. Lukens, M.D., professor emeritus of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, worked for a quarter of a century at Vanderbilt to increase the survival rates of childhood cancer.

He was recruited to Vanderbilt in 1975 to develop its first program in pediatric hematology/oncology and remained chief of the division until 1998, when he turned over the reins to his associate, James W. Whitlock, M.D. Lukens remained on the full-time faculty until his retirement in 2001.

Lukens recently created a bequest with his retirement plan, naming Vanderbilt as the beneficiary. Through a charitable remainder trust, Lukens and his wife, Mary Macauley (Cauley), have pledged support for the John N. Lukens Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“It is a division of which I am very proud,” Lukens said. “As director I looked forward to each day at the hospital, and now I have the great privilege of continuing that relationship well into the future…. Each time I walk into [Children's Hospital] I am moved by the strength and vitality of the pediatric hematology/oncology program.”

Whitlock worked with Lukens for more than 20 years and considers him a “father figure” for himself as well as many others at Vanderbilt and around the country.

“His devotion to Vanderbilt and this program is truly remarkable,” Whitlock said. “Most of the success of this program is attributable to the very strong foundation he built in the 25 years he was here. John has been extraordinarily committed to providing excellent care for these children and training the next generation of pediatric hematologists/oncologists.”

Lukens, who received his medical degree form Harvard, came to Vanderbilt after having served on the faculties of several medical schools.

“What brought me to Vanderbilt was not its brick and mortar but its human dimension. The camaraderie that exists among the faculty and the faculty's commitment to medical students was something I had not sensed elsewhere.

“Moreover, the school's leadership convinced me the Medical Center would flourish as an academic institution. I had the great fortune of recruiting an outstanding group of colleagues who shared my commitments and priorities.”

In his career, Lukens saw the cure rate for children with cancer increase from 20 percent to more than 80 percent. He had the great privilege of participating in the design and conduct of the national trials that made these advances possible.

“You can just imagine the excitement we felt as one previously incurable childhood malignancy joined the ranks of the curable,” he said.

“And I look forward to the day when our understanding of molecular perturbations in the malignant cell permits the use of therapy that is far more targeted than the chemotherapy we used.”

During his quarter century at Vanderbilt, Lukens served on several institutional committees, including 18 years on the Medical School Admissions Committee, the last nine years as chairman.

During his career, he served as president of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, chairman of the Subboard of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, vice-chair of the Children's Cancer Group, chairman of the American Cancer Society's National Institutional Grant Committee, and on numerous site visit committees for the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

He is an editor of Wintrobe's “Clinical Hematology,” the most widely used hematology textbook for the past half-century.

“The division today enjoys strong national and international visibility as one of the leading programs in pediatric hematology/oncology,” Lukens said. “I'd like to think it was well on its way before I retired.”