'All Roads Lead to Roman': A Hero Among Lung Cancer Doctors

Lung Cancer Heroes®, CURE® Lung Cancer Heroes® 2021 Essay Book, Volume 2,

Dr. Roman Perez-Soler received his original training in Spain but has been a constant beloved presence in the U.S. lung cancer arena for more than 30 years.

I am hereby hoping to nominate my boss/colleague/mentor/friend, Dr. Roman Perez-Soler, known to everyone on a first name basis: Roman.

Roman received his original training in Spain but has been a constant beloved presence in the U.S. lung cancer arena for more than 30 years. He spent many years establishing a very successful translational research career at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, followed by a leadership position at New York University. For about the past 20 years, he has been a rock-solid department chair at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

His accomplishments are numerous, from using novel translational research models to address basic aspects of lung cancer research to spearheading the development of key agents like erlotinib and topotecan that have made a huge impact in the management of patients to sustaining National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (RO1) funding, as well as 250-plus publications, patents, etc.

But why Roman is a hero for me — and us — is not about him; it is about the vast numbers of others he has helped, mentored, encouraged and, most importantly, treated during his illustrious career.

So let me expand on “others.” What do I mean by that? First of all, Roman has nurtured multiple generations of oncologists who number in the hundreds — emerging from the faculty ranks and fellowship programs of Einstein/Montefiore and beyond, nationally and internationally — through his continued involvement with some of the best educational platforms in our field. Just to name one, the highly popular New York Lung Cancer Symposium, which he has co-run now for 16 or so years with Dr. Mark G. Kris of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It has truly developed into the yearly educational forum that brings together all academic thoracic oncologists, researchers and industry experts. In addition, he has enhanced thoracic oncology research immensely beyond running his own research group by training many faculty elsewhere with great success and collaborating/enhancing clinical thoracic research globally.

And last, but certainly not least, is his dedication to the highest level of patient care even under the most difficult circumstances. He has ensured top-notch care for the neediest minority patient groups of the poorest county in New York state — the Bronx — for 20 years, never yielding to institutional or other pressures to sway from his goal and instilling that same dedication in others around him.

To top that off, we have had a chance to witness firsthand how he faced, head-on, the largest crisis of our professional and personal lives — the COVID-19 pandemic — which hit our minority patients particularly hard. He went above and beyond from day one, understanding the devastating impact the pandemic had on the most vulnerable among us: underserved patients with a cancer diagnosis facing this crisis. He led our department with remarkable strength, strategy and diligence to ensure that we could sustain outstanding, humane and compassionate cancer care even during these most testing times.

I just hope that I had been able to convince you that indeed this year, all roads lead to Roman. He is a real champion, a true hero and the most deserving of your award.

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