Originally published in the 2009 ASCO Daily News

In 36 years, John H. Glick, MD, has never missed an ASCO Annual Meeting. He attended his first one in 1973 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he presented a paper as a clinical associate at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). At that time, the Annual Meeting was contained in just two meeting rooms in a hotel on the boardwalk.

“The transformation of ASCO into what it is today has been remarkable to observe,” Dr. Glick said in an interview with ASCO Daily News. “ASCO really is the most important oncology society in the world, and it takes its responsibilities very seriously and has been amazingly successful.”

ASCO’s is only one of the several transformations that Dr. Glick has witnessed and in which he has taken part. He served as ASCO’s President from 1995 to 1996, enacting several changes in policy and structure that remain with the Society today. He served as Director of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania for 21 years and helped establish it as one of the best known cancer centers in the United States. He has seen the transformation of diseases — such as breast cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — from fatal to highly curable cancers. For his dedicated leadership in the oncology profession and for his outstanding clinical achievements, ASCO is proud to present Dr. Glick with this year’s Distinguished Achievement Award, for which he is “thrilled, proud, and honored.”

Dedicated Leadership and Volunteerism

Dr. Glick earned his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1969. He completed an internship and residency in medicine at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York and then became a clinical associate at NCI. In 1974, he completed a fellowship in medical oncology at Stanford University and then joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the staff of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

After serving in a variety of administrative roles, Dr. Glick became Director of the Abramson Cancer Center in 1985, a decade after the center became an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. Under the next 21 years of his leadership, the institution grew significantly in size and influence.

“Building the Abramson Cancer Center from a fledgling cancer organization to one of the best known and best funded cancer centers in the world was a singular accomplishment that I’m very proud of,” Dr. Glick said. “We went from having approximately 100 members to having more than 300 members, and from having $10 million per year in external grants to having $175 million per year in grants. We went on to be one of the top cancer centers in the country.”

When Dr. Glick stepped down from his position in 2006, he was the longest-serving director of an NCI-designated cancer center.

His record of service and leadership at ASCO is similar in its scope and reach. He joined the Society in 1975 and became involved with the Scientific Program Committee, serving as Chair from 1983 to 1984. He served as Chair of the Oncology Training Program from 1993 to 1995, and on the Board of Directors from 1988 to 1991. He served as Chair of the Ethics Committee from 2005 to 2006, and is currently a member of The ASCO Cancer Foundation® Board of Directors.

In 1995, he was elected President of the Society, and his year of leadership brought several enduring changes to ASCO’s structure. In 1995, ASCO hired the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Society, John Durant, MD. That year also was the first that the Society ended the practice of using an outside company to plan and coordinate the Annual Meeting, making the event the responsibility of ASCO’s in-house staff. Dr. Glick’s presidency also oversaw the establishment of the Society’s Cancer Policy and Clinical Affairs Department, an expansion of ASCO’s Clinical Practice Guidelines, the initiation of the ASCO/American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) course on clinical trials methodology, the establishment of a close relationship with the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, and several other developments and improvements.

“For me, [those were some] of the most enjoyable and satisfying years of my life,” Dr. Glick said. “I regard being President of ASCO as one of the top highlights of my academic career.”

A Rewarding Career, an Exciting Future

Dr. Glick has a long list of highlights of his research and clinical careers as well. He is a renowned medical oncologist who has treated patients with breast cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for more than 38 years. In that time, he has contributed to a revolution in the treatments used for these diseases and to the improvement of overall prognoses for these patients. Chemotherapy treatments developed and implemented by Dr. Glick and other oncologists offer patients with early-stage Hodgkin’s disease a 95% chance of a cure. Early-stage breast cancer is now more curable than ever, and many women can avoid mastectomies through the use of successful alternative therapies, such as lumpectomies and radiotherapy. Patients with metastatic breast cancer are now able to receive outpatient treatments and can experience improved quality of life and prolonged survival. For Dr. Glick, these improvements in treatments and outcomes for patients are very rewarding.

“The most important thing in my career is being a doctor,” he said. “I have had many administrative roles, but I consider myself a doctor first and foremost. My greatest pleasure is in the care of patients.”

Dr. Glick also remains hopeful that cancer care will continue to improve as it has throughout his career. He reminds new professionals in the field that oncology is a demanding but highly rewarding profession.

“I am more optimistic than ever about the future of oncology,” Dr. Glick said. “In the next 5 to 20 years, we’re going to see a revolution in the treatment of all types of cancer. We’re going to have personalized medicine, targeted therapy, be able to know the genetic fingerprint of a tumor, and be able to design therapies for individual patients. We need more men and women to take part in these exciting developments and dedicate themselves to people with cancer.”