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Promise and Progress - Reflections of Martin D. Abeloff: 2

Special Commemorative Issue: The Abeloff Era - Building Upon a Tradition of Excellence

Reflections of Martin D. Abeloff: 2

Date: April 1, 2007

Isn’t it remarkable that a doctor as busy as Marty, caring for patients, doing research and administering an entire cancer center, would be so prescient as to recognize the importance of art as an essential component of his wonderful new building?            

Ted Cohen and I had a good fortune to be selected to build the collection. Lorraine S. Levin and family became the generous principal donors, and the rest is history.            

Marty was totally supportive and keenly interested in our selection process, and when we completed our task, the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center owned a collection of over 200 original works of art in a variety of media, such as watercolors, photographs, collages, oils, and tapestries.            

Thanks to Marty’s vision for the building, the art collection enhances and humanizes the vast space. The environment is serene and welcoming for patients, staff, families, and the community.            

believe we have succeeded in our mission. If so, we can all say a most grateful thank you Marty.

Margot (Peggy) W. M. Heller

Art of Healing Program Curator  

For the past 15 years, under Marty Abeloff’s expert leadership, the Kimmel Cancer Center has grown and flourished. It is now a very large, complex, international organization that serves patients and provides leadership in clinical and research activities across the world.

Throughout his stewardship of this great enterprise, Marty has above all been an exemplary human being-one whom we all cherish. Needless to say, we all wish him well and hope that retirement from the Center Director’s position is a prelude to a very enjoyable change of pace.

Albert H. Owens, Jr.

Professor Emeritus of Oncology and Medicine  

Influential and Important            

 Marty is widely perceived as the most influential cancer center director in the country, with a reputation for sharp perception and competitive spirit balanced by reflection, kindness and a sense of fair play. He was easily the single most important factor in my own recruitment to Johns Hopkins. I expect to continue relying on his good judgment and advice for many years to come.

Charles Rudin, M.D., PH.D.

Associate Professor Oncology,

Director of the Lung Cancer Therapeutics Program,

Co-Director of the Upper Aerodigestive Cancer Program  

Small Piece of Paper            

How do I sum up in words how I feel about the doctor, who changed my life; who literally saved my life in just three short paragraphs? I could write volumes about this man but I will just stick to the facts.            

Seventeen years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was frightened and could not begin to imagine what was in store for me. I can remember meeting Dr. Abeloff for the first time like it was yesterday. My husband, Bill and I were sitting in the waiting room of the oncologist’s office, and through the glass doors walked this very tall, slender, bearded man in a white coat. With our list of questions in hand, Bill and I met with Dr. Abeloff. Within just an hour and a half our fears were calmed. Dr. Abeloff listened patiently and answered all of our questions. He never rushed, and he made me feel like there was nothing more important for him to do than to provide care for me.            

As we got ready to leave, he handed me a small piece of paper with his name and phone number on it. He joked that he did not have any business cards, and said if you have any questions or concerns please call me. If you look in my wallet today, 17 years later, you will find that small piece of paper is still there.

Jacquelene L. Redmond


I’ve worked wit hand for Marty Abeloff for 30 years. It’s been a great experience. He has been a mentor, colleague, and friend. I will really miss him.            

Others are better able to speak to Marty’s efforts in support of the laboratory science of our Center and to his role as an esteemed leader of the cancer effort nationally. My comments are focused on Marty’s contributions to clinical practice and clinical research. I’d also like to comment on Marty, the person.            

Marty is a staunchly committed to a quality clinical practice. This commitment starts with his own practice. He has been a superb physician with well honed clinical instincts and great empathy for patients. I love discussing patients with him. As Director, Marty has stood four-square behind our efforts to improve quality and safety of care. Once we had developed a plan to improve some aspect of our practice, I could always count on him to help move it forward. Words can not adequately express my gratitude for this commitment.                 

Marty has played a pivotal role in lung cancer and breast cancer clinical trials. He not only conducted important trials, but was a leader in the efforts by the cooperative groups to prioritize trials and get them done. As Director, Marty has been a staunch supporter of the effort to build the infrastructure necessary to conduct clinical research in our heavily regulated clinical research environment. Marty’s patient, positive outlook were very much needed and appreciated during the dark days when our clinical research effort was shut down and during the ensuing recovery period.            

Above all Marty Abeloff is a good human being. As long as I have known him he has been this way. As he rose from Instructor to Director, this did not change. He sees the world in a positive, hopeful way. He looks for the best, finds the best, encourages the best. He takes the long view. He does not impose. He listens to what folks want to do then encourages and helps them do what is good and best. He is flexible, understanding, patient, and forgiving. If he does not have something nice to say about someone, he says very little or says it very carefully. He does not gossip. He is incredibly loyal. When things aren’t going well, he feels it. He takes responsibility for it. I can not overestimate how critical it has been to the success of our Center to have this kind of person as Director. It has been a wonderful example for all of us. It is this Marty that I will miss the most-Marty, the good person.

John H. Fetting, III

Associate Professor of Oncology  

Growth and Encouragement

I have been a part of the cancer center since 1973, when we became the Department of Oncology. In that period, I have had only two bosses: Albert H. Owens Jr., and Martin D. Abeloff. Although each of them led during different periods of our growth and development, they were similar in some very important ways. They strove to hire excellent faculty, they attempted to rule by consensus, they allowed the faculty to be independent and show their potential for growth, they fostered a family atmosphere (including, of course, all the challenges that families face), and they led the Department of Oncology to be one of the finest in the world.            

I have been privileged and honored to work with both men. Leadership of a department in an institution as complex as Johns Hopkins is a never-ending challenge and potentially ulcer-producing. Marty has met the challenge and, as far as I know, has managed to escape the ulcers.            

I can only hope that the next three decades will be as successful as the last three have been.

Leadership that promotes and encourages growth of all who work in the department has been essential to the success of the past 30 years and will be the key to success in the coming decades.  

David S. Ettinger, M.D.

Alex Grass Professor of Oncology

Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Medicine, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery,

and Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences  

I am personally indebted to Marty Abeloff as he hired me and advanced my career, working as my mentor for my very first grant and my first clinical trial all the way through to helping me to become the occupant of the Breast Cancer Research Professor, an endowed chair for which he garnered the funds! So many of us at the Kimmel Cancer Center have enjoyed similar successes as Marty has served us individually and collectively through his leadership at the local, national and international levels. Marty Abeloff reminds us that Leo Durocher was wrong-in fact, nice guys can finish first!

Nancy Davidson, M.D.

Breast Cancer Research Chair in Oncology

Professor of Oncology

Director of the Breast Cancer Program