Giant of Cancer Care Award Goes to Dawn Hershman, MD, for Critical Advancements in Cancer Care Delivery

September 16, 2021

Dawn Hershman, MD, a leading breast cancer physician-scientist and pioneer in the burgeoning field of cancer care delivery research, has been named to the Giants of Cancer Care Class of 2021. The annual recognition, bestowed by digital media company, OncLive, and Pfizer Inc., celebrates the achievements of researchers and educators whose discoveries have propelled the field of oncology forward and established the building blocks for future advances.

Headshot photo of Dr. Dawn Hershman with office space in background
Dawn Hershman, MD

In its ninth year, the Giants of Cancer Care program has selected only 14 oncologists out of hundreds of nominations, selected by a committee of over 120 oncologists, researchers, and clinicians. Dr. Hershman, co-leader of the Cancer Population Science Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) and director of breast oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, is being honored for her impactful work in improving cancer care delivery to patients and narrowing the gap in cancer health disparities. 

“We have made so much progress in terms of the treatment of cancer with so many novel and targeted therapies, but therapies are no good if the people who need them can’t access them,” says Dr. Hershman. “In order for us to deliver optimal care and really actualize all of that discovery we need to understand what are the barriers to getting patients care.” 

For the past two decades, Dr. Hershman’s work has had a demonstrable and lasting impact on improving quality of life for people with cancer and reducing barriers for patients to receive cancer care. Some of her most recent research has been focused on optimizing cancer patient outcomes through pain management and medication adherence interventions. 

“Figuring out how to keep patients on their treatment longer can have as big of an impact on patient survival as discovering a new drug,” notes Dr. Hershman. A holistic approach to investigating and improving patient outcomes has been fundamental in what drives her research. “Focusing on cancer care delivery serves as a rich source for understanding healthcare disparities,” she says, “and in thinking about concrete measures to reduce disparities in care.”

Dr. Hershman and her collaborators have investigated multiple, diverse areas of cancer care delivery and disparities research, including understanding that small changes in co-payment amounts can alter a patient’s adherence to long-term therapy and how that can have a significant policy implication. Her ongoing work in investigating barriers to clinical trial accruals over time has helped raise awareness  and promoted understanding of disparities in recruitment.

Of the recognition as a “Giant of Cancer Care,” Dr. Hershman says, “It really means everything to be recognized by your peers, and I’m honored to be considered amongst these luminaries in the cancer field.” 

Dr. Hershman, who was named an American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology in 2020, holds several national leadership roles in oncology, including at SWOG, an organization she joined while still an oncology fellow. As vice chair of the NCI's Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) at SWOG, she oversees the NCORP research portfolio, which includes prevention and epidemiology, cancer care delivery, symptom control and quality of life, and survivorship trials. Dr. Hershman also co-chairs SWOG’s cancer care and delivery committee.

Dr. Hershman has said that the impact of mentorship is exponential, and she continues to make it a top priority to support junior faculty and the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians. “I am most proud of being able to mentor a whole cadre of investigators to examine all the different factors that can impact patients’ care and improve strategies to deliver care.”