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Roswell Park chief has ambitious agenda

The new head of Roswell Park Cancer Institute hopes to build on recent progress made there while boosting efforts to recruit top scientists, generate new cancer treatments and make an impact on the local economy.

Dr. Donald L. Trump, introduced Tuesday as Roswell Park's new president and chief executive officer, offered a broad vision that includes winning recognition for the institute as one of the country's Top Ten cancer centers.

"Our future is bright, our work is important, and our total commitment makes the achievement of these goals . . . a virtual certainty," Trump said in a speech to a large audience of Roswell Park staff and community leaders in an institute lecture hall.

Trump, who officially took over April 1, succeeds Dr. David C. Hohn as president and CEO.

Hohn had held those positions for 10 years and remains at the institute as executive director of health policy.

In taking the helm at Roswell Park, Trump is in charge of the country's first comprehensive cancer center, an anchor of Buffalo's medical corridor and a major area employer.

There are high expectations for the institute as an economic engine and cancer-treatment center, said Trump, who goes by the nickname "Skip."

He recalled a recent dinner party at which Anthony Gioia, the businessman and former ambassador, offered blunt advice: "Don't screw it up, Skip."

As Trump laid out his agenda, he lauded the efforts of his immediate predecessors -- Hohn and Dr. Thomas B. Tomasi -- in strengthening Roswell Park's financial and medical footing.

Ten years ago, Roswell Park's future was in doubt. But the cancer center gained from the state the ability to manage its own affairs and more than doubled the size of its budget while minimizing its reliance on state funding.

Last May, an audit by the state comptroller's office praised Roswell Park as a prime example of how public authorities should operate.

Also recently, Roswell Park opened a new gene research center, successfully wooed a top cancer researcher from Cleveland and announced the formation of its first spinoff company.

Trump said Tuesday he wants to build on those recent successes, with a focus on:

* Recruiting the best scientists, doctors, nurses and staff.

* Providing care to patients from a wider geographic area.

* Targeting basic research on the areas that can lead to new, cutting-edge therapies.

* Translating more Roswell Park research into commercially viable products and, ideally, spinoff companies.

* Moving Roswell Park into the first rank of American cancer centers. He said in an interview that the institute is likely in the middle tier of recognized cancer centers.

"Roswell Park is an institution positioned for greatness," he said in his remarks.

Reaction to the speech was strongly positive.

"Roswell Park is an invigorating place to be. It has been for decades. Dr. Trump hit it on the mark. Every one of us is building on the work of those who came before," said Dr. Stephen Edge, chairman of breast surgery.

Trump, 61, whose salary was not disclosed Tuesday, was recruited to Roswell Park in 2002 as Hohn's heir apparent.

He is a prominent scientist whose research explores the value of vitamin D therapy in prostate cancer patients.

"We think Dr. Trump is the ideal candidate to take the institution to the next level of success," said Robert B. Skerker, chairman of the finance committee of Roswell Park's board.

Trump began his speech -- which was attended by Dr. Richard F. Daines, the state health commissioner -- by offering some personal insights.

He said he had expected as a young doctor to specialize in cardiology, but his first exposure to oncology changed his entire way of thinking.

"I was struck by the compassion and commitment of all the staff to cure cancer, understand the disease and to ease the burdens experienced by cancer patients and their families," Trump said.

That is a burden he understands personally, Trump added, because he lost both his parents to cancer.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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