John Glick

For more than a decade, John Glick, M.D., has served as director of the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center. Last month he was named director of the newly established $100 million Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute within Penn's Cancer Center.

"As a cancer survivor for 12 years, I understand the importance of patient-centered approaches in research and clinical activities," said Madlyn Abramson. "To that end, personalized and compassionate care will be the goal of all Abramson Institute efforts."

And who better to ensure those goals are carried out than her doctor, John Glick, whose demonstrated beliefs concur with those set forth by the Abramsons.

An international expert in the treatment of breast cancer, lymphoma and Hodgkin's Disease, John Glick, M.D., believes in a personal touch.

The Abramsons believe so staunchly in Penn and in Glick, they pledged the $100 million last month for the creation of the Abramson Institute. No money is going for new buildings, just attracting the right minds and getting patients the best possible care.

A harried Glick took time last week to answer a few quick questions amid his chaotic schedule and new responsibilities.

Q. How do you start to spend $100 million?

A. We are in the process of initiating a search, a national and international search, for the position of scientific director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute.

This will be an internationally recognized, basic scientist who is in the forefront or on the cutting edge of cancer research and this individual will serve as the scientific director of the Abramson Cancer Research Institute, and play a major role in the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center.

In addition, we're beginning to identify Abramson scientists and get them through our approval process and go from there.

Q. Specifically, what are you looking for? And, how do you compile such a list?

A. For the scientific director, the first thing we're doing is a national search and we're looking at some of the most famous names in cancer research. For the individual scientists, it's a different process, depending on the level and the faculty rank they're going to be.

Q. How will the grant be applied in the process?

A. The funds are to be spent as the needs arise, so as we open new laboratory space in April 1999 in Biomedical Research Buildings Nos. 2 and 3 [not part of the Abramson gift], we'll bring a lot of scientists on board at that time.

Q. What are some of the biggest challenges in setting up the center?

A. The biggest challenges are recruiting the scientists and finding the best and brightest people that we want to bring to Penn. That's going to occupy a lot of our time.

And, secondly, we are going to find ways that we can bring the level of patient care at Penn, which is already outstanding, to the next level to create a new paradigm of patient-centered caring.

Q. And that would include?

A. We want to try to treat every patient as if they are a member of your own family, not only bring to them the most outstanding physicians that we have at Penn, but to envelop them in an atmosphere where their psychological needs, their nutritional needs, their social service needs ... are all taken care of at the same time they are receiving the most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic treatments anyway.

Q. As per Madlyn Abramson's request?

A. She wants every patient to get the type of care she got.

Q. What are some of the essential elements of such care?

A. You want every patient who has cancer and is facing this very distressing piece of news to be able to access the system easily, get appointments easily, see doctors easily, get their tests easily, and receive psychological supportive care in addition to their diagnostic and therapeutic treatments.

In other words, to put a whole package of patient services, including outstanding physician services, at the disposal of the patient, so that they can cope with their disease, achieving a cure where possible and palliation where it's not possible.

Q.When, or where, did your dedication to patient-centered care develop?

A. My father was a physician and I've always believed in a very personalized type of patient care. For many years, since I became a doctor, I've always given patients my home phone number and made myself available to patients. I've always believed that every patient should get the same kind of care that you would give to your mother or sister.

Q. So your father provided the strongest example for you?

A.My father was a dermatologist, and he was always accessible to patients. He was a role model of mine for excellent patient care.

Originally published on January 14, 1998