In a ceremony marked by emotion and remembrance, J. Dirk Iglehart, M.D., was installed as the first incumbent of the Anne E. Dyson Chair in Women’s Cancers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School (HMS). The ceremony was held at the Medical School’s Gordon Hall on Monday, Sept. 10.
Named for the late Anne Dyson, a Dana-Farber trustee, respected pediatrician, and president of the New York–based Dyson Foundation, the professorship honors Dyson’s memory and supports the institute’s efforts to uncover the causes of and cures for women’s cancers. A DFCI patient, Dyson died in September 2000 from breast cancer.
“The creation of this professorship celebrates Annie’s life,” Iglehart, director of DFCI’s Women’s Cancers Program, said during the ceremony. “Cancer is not one disease, but many. Some are fast growing; some are not. Some are hereditary; some are not. Some are resistant to hormones; some are not. Thanks to the Dyson Foundation, we are doubling our efforts to uncover the secrets of all women’s cancers.”
Iglehart, who has been at the institute since 1999, is also chief of surgical oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His research focuses on the molecular biology of breast cancer and the early steps in cancer invasion and progression. A 1975 HMS graduate, he worked for more than 20 years at Duke University Medical Center as a surgeon and investigator before joining Dana-Farber.
Dyson’s late parents, Charles and Margaret, established their family foundation in 1957 to offer charitable support through grants to various organizations. Now run by Anne Dyson’s brother, Robert, the foundation has aided Dana-Farber’s efforts for more than two decades.
DFCI president emeritus David G. Nathan, M.D., spoke during the dedication about his relationship with Anne Dyson, both as a colleague and friend.
“I first met Annie in 1978, when she visited Dana-Farber and its Jimmy Fund as the new head of the Dyson Foundation,” reflected Nathan. “She felt the Jimmy Fund offered something special to children and their families. Annie was extremely committed to seeding something good.”
The Dyson Foundation made its first gift to Dana-Farber two years later, creating a bone marrow transplantation program for children with advanced disease. Many gifts later, the Margaret M. Dyson Professorship in Pediatrics was formed in 1998 to honor the memory of Dyson’s mother, who died of ovarian cancer. The foundation was also a significant contributor to the establishment last year of the David G. Nathan Chair in Pediatrics, which supports research at Dana-Farber and Children’s Hospital, Boston. The Nathan Chair is now held by Stuart Orkin, M.D., chair of pediatric oncology.
“When I became physician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital, Annie helped me discover the world of general pediatrics,” Nathan explained to the HMS audience. “And when I returned to Dana-Farber as its president, she continued to give me great advice. When she had to come to DFCI as a patient, her wish was for things to get better for the next person.”
Representing the Dyson Foundation and family at the event, Robert Dyson expressed his gratitude to the institute and its doctors who cared for his sister.
“On behalf of our family, I want to thank Dr. Nathan, Dr. [Eric] Winer [director of DFCI’s Breast Oncology Center], and Dr. Iglehart for helping Annie and for all you do to help others,” he said. “My sister was smart, determined, and giving – and she had enormous faith in science and in you, her colleagues.”
“The Dyson name has been associated with the struggles of cancer – ideally it will know the triumphs as well,” Iglehart said.