Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD, Installed as Inaugural Dr. Cyrus Katzen Family Director
With his formal installation as the inaugural Dr. Cyrus Katzen Family Director of the George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center on Aug. 13, Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD, joined an elite group of 29 endowed professors, chairs, and directors throughout the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).
“I am truly honored and humbled to serve as the inaugural Dr. Cyrus Katzen Family Director of the George Washington University Cancer Center,” Sotomayor said. The recognition, he added, “is an acknowledgement of the many people who influenced and guided me along an exciting journey that took a boy from a small town along the coast of Peru to America, the greatest country, which adopted me and allowed me to fulfill my personal and professional dreams.”
Sotomayor, a research leader in the study of immunotherapy of B-cell malignancies, came to GW just four years ago to serve as the director of the GW Cancer Center. In those four years, Sotomayor has unified GW’s cancer research and clinical care, advancing research innovation, personalizing cancer care, and supporting cancer policy development. His overarching goal for the GW Cancer Center is to earn designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) comprehensive cancer center, an effort that already has moved into the grant-writing phase.
“We know we got the right person for the job,” said Jeffrey S. Akman, MD ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS. “We were looking for someone with big ideas who could build a cancer center.” The search committee, he said, was particularly impressed with Sotomayor’s “vision, passion, deep knowledge of NCI cancer centers, and desire to build something from the ground up.”
The installation ceremony featured a cavalcade of honored guests, including members of the Katzen and Sotomayor families, the Cyrus Katzen Foundation board, current and former GW presidents, and senior leadership representing the university’s health enterprise. Robert Gallo, MD, a long-time mentor of Sotomayor who is best known for his role in the discovery of HIV and the development of the HIV blood test, was also on hand for the event.
“Today is a significant day for my entire family,” said Jay Katzen, MD ’72, BA ’67. The two-time GW alumnus and director of the Cyrus Katzen Foundation recalled his family’s extensive ties to GW and the impact cancer has had on his family.
“We’re here to continue to build upon the important legacy my father, Dr. Cy Katzen, has established here at GW and in the Washington, D.C., region in the area of cancer research and patient-related cancer care,” said Katzen, who is a member of the SMHS Dean’s Council, the Katzen Cancer Research Center Board of Directors, and is a former member of GW’s Board of Trustees, serving from 2010–18.
The Katzen family’s support over the past two decades has been critical to cancer care at GW and in Washington, D.C. In 2008, Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen made a $10 million gift to establish The Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Cancer Research Center.
“Dad made this gift because he knew that funding research is the only way to find a cure,” recalled Katzen. “He saw potential in GW, and he knew that under the right leadership GW could have a premier cancer center someday.”
Since then, the Katzen Center has served as the medical home for thousands of people in their most vulnerable times as they go through treatment.
“Endowed gifts such as this are the cornerstone of philanthropy,” said GW President Thomas LeBlanc. “The earnings they generate enrich and sustain our work across the university, reaching all corners of the campus, in perpetuity.”
The gift of an endowed directorship will support the GW Cancer Center by enhancing basic science and translational research, new treatment protocols, academic needs for medical students and clinicians, honoraria for visiting scholars, pilot research grants for residents and fellows, and equipment needs.
Cyrus Katzen’s legacy, Sotomayor added, “is one of compassion for patients and their families during the life-altering aftermath of cancer diagnosis. He and his family lived through this journey, and they are empathetic partners who share our commitment to creating a cancer-free world.
“Each one of us in this room plays an important role in the fight against this terrible disease. I look forward to the journey ahead together as we continue to fulfill the proud legacy of the Katzen family.”