City of Hope Faculty Honored for Achievements in Clinical Surgery, Promotion of Women in Cancer Science

Yuman Fong, MD, received the 2022 Flance-Karl Award from the American Surgical Association (ASA), and Leslie Bernstein, PhD, received the Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award for Promotion of Women in Cancer Medicine and Cancer Science.

This week, City of Hope National Medical Center, a Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California, announced that 2 faculty had received major awards: Yuman Fong, MD, received the 2022 Flance-Karl Award from the American Surgical Association (ASA), and Leslie Bernstein, PhD, received the Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award for Promotion of Women in Cancer Medicine and Cancer Science.

Fong, who is chair of the City of Hope’s Department of Surgery and director of its Center for Surgical Innovation, received one of the most prestigious awards in science, given annually to a surgeon in the United States who has made seminal contributions in translational research that have applications in clinical surgery.

Described by his peers as a pioneer both in the operating room and in the laboratory, Fong is an expert in cancers of the livers, pancreas, bile ducts, and gall bladder. He has designed and deployed surgical tools and techniques in surgery—including robotic tools—while also developing genetically modified viruses to destroy cancer cells by harnessing the immune system in the attack on cancer. He is one of the most highly cited researchers in the world, having written and edited more than 1000 scholarly articles and 22 textbooks.

“My work is focused on advancing cancer therapies for the benefit of patients,” Fong said in a statement from City of Hope. “This is a great honor to be recognized among such an extraordinary group of surgeons who have received this award in previous years. I am so grateful to City of Hope for providing an environment that has allowed me to invent and to mentor young surgeons in research. I am particularly happy because this recognition puts City of Hope surgical research in the national spotlight.”

Bernstein, director of City of Hope’s Division of Biomarkers of Early Detection and Prevention, was cited for making a substantial mark on both science and society by identifying modifiable factors that can reduce cancer risk—including the first studies that showed the link between increased physical activity and reduced risk of cancer. Bernstein has personally mentored over 120 students, postdocs and junior faculty from all over the world who subsequently went on to productive careers in cancer research — roughly 7 out of 8 of them women.

For nearly 25 years, Bernstein led the California Teachers Study, a collaborative research project that helped conceive that created and tracks a cohort of 133,500 female public school professionals, providing crucial data to cancer epidemiologists.

By showing that women could make practical lifestyle changes to improve their health and extend their lives, Bernstein “yielded unparalleled scientific achievement and earned her status as a leader among her peers in biomedical research,” City of Hope said in statement.

“Her greatest contribution has been to our understanding of the impact of physical activity: Her studies clearly established that exercise over one’s lifetime can reduce the risk of cancer, and that physical activity can affect disease prognosis and quality of life in survivors.”

Thirty years ago, Bernstein first proposed that ensuring that teenage girls got more exercise would help prevent breast cancer later in life. She followed up throughout the 1990s with landmark studies showing that exercise reduced the risk of breast cancer among younger women and, later, postmenopausal women. Her research by Ella has shown how breast cancer is affected across the lifespan by hormones, environmental chemicals, diet and obesity.

The Kripke Award, created in 2008, recognizes a person who has made significant contributions in advancing and promoting women in cancer medicine and cancer science. It is named for Professor Emerita Margaret L. Kripke, PhD, for her advocacy for and promotion of women in academic medicine and science.

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