|A Conversation with Dr. John E. Niederhuber |
Dr. John E. Niederhuber, a professor of oncology and surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, was recently re-appointed as chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB). He was originally appointed in 2002.
What do you see as the NCAB's primary role or goals?
First, obviously, is that the NCAB is advisory. Our goal is to try to help to shape and inform the decision-making process at NCI. As a board made up of outstanding scientists, clinicians, and leaders from the lay community who have a vested interest in cancer, that's our key role.
Our second objective is stewardship - to provide oversight of NCI's activities. We need and want to pay attention to the Institute's financial management and to programmatic outcomes. We want to know if NCI is achieving its mission and its specific goals. We also need to understand whether the goals and the programs that have been created in the past are still relevant to today's mission and goals. And our third responsibility is advocacy. We need to be active in ensuring that NCI's visions and successes are communicated to the institute's key stakeholders, and that includes everybody from R01 grantees to Congress to the public at large.
What do you see as some of the biggest issues facing NCI and the cancer community?
I think the biggest issue is trying to maximize what we can achieve with the budget we are allotted. So we are working as closely as we can with NCI leadership to do the sort of forward thinking and planning and tough decision-making that maximizes our ability to do the kind of work we want and need to do.
What role do you think the NCAB can play in that regard?
We can do a number of things, but I think one of the most important is to serve as good advocates. We need to educate Congress and the public about the importance, at this particular point in time, of investing in the science needed to build on the gains we have made in all areas of cancer. We really need to tell our story.
This will be your second term as NCAB chair. Both personally and professionally, what attracts you to this position?
It's obviously a tremendous honor to be asked to serve as chair for 2 more years. It's a tremendous opportunity for me to reach out to outstanding scientists and community leaders and actively work with them on some of these very important issues. And hopefully, in doing so, we will be an important part of moving things forward and making real progress in both preventing cancer and making it something we can manage more effectively, to really improve people's lives.