Skip to main content

Black History Month Spotlight: CURE Scholar Dr. John H. Stewart on Black Heroes of History and Today, His Role Models, and Becoming a Cancer Center Director in His Home State

, by CRCHD Staff

In recognition of Black History Month, we at the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD) are recognizing CRCHD scholars on the Center's blog, Dialogue on Disparities. In these spotlights, scholars discuss what Black History Month means to them, recognize some of their role models, and describe their research and career. This spotlight features CURE K08 scholar John H. Stewart, IV, MD, MBA, FACS, who in July 2021 became Director of the Louisiana State University New Orleans - Louisiana Children's Medical Center Cancer Center and Professor of Surgery, Section of Surgical Oncology, Louisiana State University New Orleans School of Medicine.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Dr. John H. Stewart, IV

CURE Scholar John H. Stewart, IV, MD, MBA, FACS

I believe that Black History is an integral part of American history. However, we celebrate Black heroes in American history who fought to create a more perfect Union in February. These heroes sought to abolish slavery; they met the challenges of de jure segregation in the Jim Crow era; and they continue to lead in important fields, including medicine, science, education, and law.

Are there role models—past and present—who have been an inspiration to you and your work and whom you would like to recognize this Black History Month?

As a surgical oncologist, I have been inspired by Drs. Charles R. Drew, LaSalle D. Leffall, Jack White, and Harold Freeman. These men have paved the way for many of us who have gone into surgical disciplines. As a researcher, I continue to be inspired by Drs. Lucile Adams-Campbell, Juanita Merchant, and John Carethers. They have made long-standing contributions to cancer research and mentorship, and I owe them a debt of gratitude for their mentorship.

These heroes sought to abolish slavery; they met the challenges of de jure segregation in the Jim Crow era; and they continue to lead in important fields, including medicine, science, education, and law. —Dr. John H. Stewart
What inspired your interest in cancer research and surgery?

I became interested in cancer research and surgery as a medical student at the Howard University College of Medicine, where Drs. Adams-Campbell and Leffall spurred my interest in understanding disparities in cancer outcomes. I did my first clinical research project on breast cancer in premenopausal Black women under their direction.

After my third year of surgery residency, I then spent four years in the Surgery Branch of the NCI. I spent my first year as a clinical immunotherapy fellow with Dr. Steve Rosenberg. This experience ignited my interest in tumor immunotherapy and its translation into clinical trials. I then studied the basic mechanisms of apoptosis in malignant mesothelioma with Drs. David Schrump and Dao Nguyen for my final two and a half years at the NCI.

Although I had a solid local mentoring committee, the ability to tap into the national network of mentors associated with the CURE program was of tremendous value. —Dr. John H. Stewart
How have you and your career been impacted by receiving an NCI CRCHD Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) K08 grant?

Receiving a CRCHD CURE K08 award had a tremendous impact on my career. This award provided two critical benefits for me as an early-career investigator. The first was the protected time afforded by the grant. Having dedicated time for critical thought around important research questions allowed me to devise clinical trials that translated my work from the benchtop to the bedside. The second benefit was research mentorship. Although I had a solid local mentoring committee, the ability to tap into the national network of mentors associated with the CURE program was of tremendous value.

...You can never lose sight of the needs of your community partners. Having community partners at the table during the design stage of screening initiatives, research trials, and outreach activities results in a much more holistic approach to the community's needs. —Dr. John H. Stewart
In your last position, you served as a Principal Investigator for the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC), a U54 Comprehensive Partnership to Advance Cancer Health Equity (CPACHE) supported by CRCHD. What did you take from serving in a leadership role in this mutually beneficial partnership between institutions serving underserved populations experiencing health disparities and underrepresented students and an NCI-designated Cancer Center?

The ChicagoCHEC program is a collaboration between Northwestern University, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Northeastern Illinois University. Its fundamental goal is to establish mechanisms and infrastructure that promote activities that support the broad spectrum of research, education, and outreach activities to advance cancer health equity in Chicago. Perhaps the most important lesson that I took away from my leadership role is that you can never lose sight of the needs of your community partners. Having community partners at the table during the design stage of screening initiatives, research trials, and outreach activities results in a much more holistic approach to the community's needs.

In July 2021, you became Director of the Louisiana State University New Orleans - Louisiana Children's Medical Center Cancer Center. What did it mean to you to earn this role, particularly in your home state of Louisiana?

This is the greatest honor of my professional career. Louisiana has a 7% higher cancer incidence and 14% higher mortality from cancer relative to the rest of the United States. These findings drive our mission to provide superb value to patients, their families, and the state of Louisiana. The members of the LSU-LCMC Cancer Center will deliver on this mission with an intense focus on innovation that is responsive to the community’s needs.

What is your vision for the Cancer Center?

Our vision is to develop a world-renowned Cancer Center that will foster unprecedented programmatic success for the state of Louisiana.

My K08 award supported my early work on the intraperitoneal delivery of a mutated vesicular stomatitis virus (M51R VSV) to treat peritoneal surface dissemination from colorectal cancer. —Dr. John H. Stewart
Could you describe your current research?

My research focuses on oncolytic viral therapies for peritoneal surface malignancies. My K08 award supported my early work on the intraperitoneal delivery of a mutated vesicular stomatitis virus (M51R VSV) to treat peritoneal surface dissemination from colorectal cancer. The ongoing work in my laboratory seeks to delineate the immunomodulatory effects of M51R VSV that can drive novel treatment paradigms for a population of patients who have limited therapeutic options. In addition, I am also the study director for a phase 1 trial of intraperitoneal oncolytic herpes virus to treat peritoneal surface malignancies.

< Older Post

Associate Deputy Director for Integration Dr. Mary Ann Van Duyn Retires from NCI

Newer Post >

NIH Announces Final FIRST Cohort Funding Opportunity

If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. In the case of permitted digital reproduction, please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source and link to the original NCI product using the original product's title; e.g., “Black History Month Spotlight: CURE Scholar Dr. John H. Stewart on Black Heroes of History and Today, His Role Models, and Becoming a Cancer Center Director in His Home State was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”

Featured Posts

Archive