UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Winter 2018 2018 Volume XXXIII Number 3 - Page 7

Q: How hard is it to make a transition from gynecologic oncology to all cancers? A: It is a challenge. Twenty years ago, it would have been a lot easier because, unfortunately, we had less knowledge about all these cancers and therapeutic interventions. Now these fields are getting more complex, and the stratification of patients with different types of cancer is greater. But it is a good challenge, and I am excited about it. I am the kind of person who doesn’t have a problem asking questions and asking fo r help. The clinicians and researchers here at UAB are really outstanding so that makes my job easier. I do believe that through a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of particular cancers, we will be able to better diagnose and treat these diseases. Bringing His Leadership to the South Dr. Birrer is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in gynecologic oncology. He has published more than 320 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 27 book chapters and review articles. He has served in numerous leadership positions within the greater gynecologic oncology community, such as chair of the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program, chair of the Committee for Experimental Medicine of the Gynecologic Oncology Group, and chair of the Translational Science Working Group of the Gynecological Cancer Intergroup, among others. In addition, he is a member of many national organizations including the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, American Association of Cancer Research and Society of Gynecologic Oncology. Q: So what drew you here to UAB? A: The academic excellence of UAB was very attractive to me. Beyond its outstanding clinical academic history, it is a size where I can get my hands around it, and steer it. It has room to be expanded. When you look at free-standing cancer centers like Memorial Sloan Kettering and MD Anderson, I am not even sure they can actually make changes that help patients in a rapid fashion. I think that can be done here at UAB. It is the perfect size and the perfect academic quality. My wife and I wanted to go to a sunnier, warmer place, and our children are down here more times than not. We are country people. And I am a big lover of grits. Q: What do you find different here in the Deep South than in the Northeast? A: I think it is sort of ironic because if you go to some of the major cancer centers in the Northeast, I think they pride themselves on, for lack of better term, “diversity” in both the staff and inpatient population. It is ironic because one of the problems we had at the Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Center is actually proving to people that we saw underserved # K N O W U A B C C C • U A B . E D U / C A N C E R 5