Joe W. Ramos, PhD is New LCRC Director
The arrival of a top cancer scientist and administrator to lead the state's research effort comes not a moment too soon. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards underscored the urgency by personally introducing Joe W. Ramos, PhD, as the new director of the Louisiana Cancer Research Center (LCRC) at a press conference in New Orleans.
"It does take the hiring of an experienced scientific director like Dr. Ramos, I think, to really make sure that we're taking the biggest possible step in the right direction towards marshalling all of our research strengths against cancer," the Governor told a crowd at the LCRC building in New Orleans. “His recruitment represents an important inflection point for the LCRC and I'm confident that in time he will embark on the plan to bring the great work of the LCRC to all corners of our state.”
The Louisiana Legislature established the LCRC in 2002 to facilitate collaborations among its largest research institutions: LSU Health New Orleans, Tulane University School of Medicine, Xavier University of Louisiana and Ochsner Health, with an eventual goal of achieving coveted Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Ramos, who was previously Interim Director of the NCI-designated University of Hawaii Cancer Center, described the research that the member scientists have been doing as “outstanding” and he intends to provide a platform to give it statewide reach. “We will provide a mechanism to amplify the power of that work, to impact the burden of cancer faster, more broadly and in more detail… the whole is going to be greater than the sum of the parts,” he explained. The value of collaboration was similarly endorsed in a video presentation featuring the presidents of Tulane University, LSU, Xavier University of Louisiana and the CEO of Ochsner Health.
Although he doesn't officially start his new job until August 1, Ramos has already started introducing himself to fellow cancer researchers throughout the state. He plans to visit them personally as part of an upcoming statewide tour as he reinvents “Louisiana’s Cancer Research Center.”
The new director says the role of the LCRC should be “to add, to align and to lead.” Firstly, making sure that the LCRC is adding value to the work of its partners in the form of new initiatives such as creation of an office of community outreach and engagement; aligning research into programs that help communities solve cancer-related problems and enabling research across different disciplines.
“We need to make sure that we're constantly attentive to how we can combine [the research] in interdisciplinary fashions to use all of the tools that we have at our disposal to have the biggest impact on cancer in the state.” According to Ramos, that's the leadership the National Cancer Institute is looking for when it awards its coveted cancer center designation.
Understanding exactly what NCI cancer center designation is matters. "It is not a certification or gold star,” he explains. Instead, Dr. Ramos says the designation is a recipe for a multi-pronged attack based on innovation that responds strongly to the needs of communities with new interventions to prevent and treat cancers, provide new clinical trials, train the next generation of physicians and researchers, all with attention to diversity, equity and inclusion.
It is a major effort that will require many partners and a strong network of supporters including policy makers, biodistrict companies, hospitals, clinicians and researchers throughout the entire state and Gulf Coast.
Dr. Ramos intends to gauge its success by creating specific benchmarks towards the larger goal of reducing cancer and improving survival.
“This isn't going to happen overnight,” he told the crowd, “We’ve got to get there in small steps and we’ve got to get going.”