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VICC’s Johnson Accepts Position in Dallas

May 4, 2010 | Dagny Stuart

Talk to anyone about cancer care and research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and it won’t take long before they mention the influence of deputy director David H. Johnson, M.D., on the fast-paced growth and burgeoning national reputation of the program. The Georgia native came to Nashville in 1981 for a Medical Oncology Fellowship and two years later joined the Vanderbilt faculty. He was soon developing personal relationships with cancer patients, pushing the boundaries of translational research and building professional bridges with cancer researchers around the world.

David Johnson, M.D.

Now, Johnson, director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Vanderbilt, has accepted a new career challenge at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas, where he will become Chairman of Medicine and will hold the Donald W. Seldin Distinguished Chair in Internal Medicine.

Carlos Arteaga, M.D., who leads VICC’s Breast Cancer Program and its Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Breast Cancer, has agreed to lead the Division of Hematology-Oncology as interim director. A search committee will be named to lead a national search for Johnson’s successor.

When the Cancer Center was formed in 1993, Johnson was one of the leaders who joined with Harold L. (Hal) Moses, M.D., now director emeritus, to focus on making Vanderbilt a leader in research and patient care.

“David contributed enormously to the development of the Cancer Center. Without his enthusiastic involvement we certainly would not have been as successful as we were in building what has become an internationally recognized cancer center,” said Moses.

Carlos Arteaga, M.D.

In addition to leading Hematology and Oncology at Vanderbilt, he also stepped onto the international cancer stage as president of the prestigious American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in 2004-2005.

“I know I would not have been granted this exciting opportunity had it not been for the incredibly supportive environment provided to me at Vanderbilt throughout the past 29 years,” said Johnson, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medical and Surgical Oncology. “It has allowed me to build a respectable academic resume while simultaneously learning the requisite skills of administration and leadership from incredible role models.”

Arteaga, Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer and Professor of Medicine, will assume his new role at the end of June.

“We have great confidence in the leadership of Dr. Arteaga to continue the momentum of the division,” said Allen Kaiser, M.D., interim chair of the Department of Medicine and chief of staff for Vanderbilt University Hospital. “Dr. Arteaga has a long and distinguished history at Vanderbilt and is internationally recognized as a physician-scientist of the highest caliber in the field of breast cancer.”

VICC has achieved National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 40 in the country.

VICC is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a select group of cancer centers working to establish guidelines for evidence-based cancer treatment. And the Cancer Center now ranks seventh in competitive funding from NCI.

“David Johnson has built one of the nation’s leading divisions of Hematology-Oncology,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“His mark on oncology extends across the country through the dozens of clinicians and physician-scientists who have trained under his direction, and the countless patients, survivors and families who have benefited from his expertise and compassionate care.”

“As an internationally acclaimed oncologist, David has been recruited many times by other institutions,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of Vanderbilt-Ingram. “This position at UT-Southwestern is a tremendous leadership opportunity for David and we are thrilled for him.”

Johnson said he will miss Vanderbilt. “I can only say that any success I have enjoyed in my current position was directly attributable to the best Hematology and Oncology faculty in the country,” he said.

“I have loved being the division chief, more so than anything I have done in my career. The hardest part of the decision is the knowledge that I must part with numerous friends and colleagues at Vanderbilt. However, the separation is only geographic. Vanderbilt and the wonderful faculty will always be with me.”


  1. I have been Dr. Johnson’s patient for almost five years. I am truly devastated that he is leaving.

    Comment by Nita Laughlin — May 7, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

  2. As a “worker bee” in the clinic with Dr. J for many years, I know that both patients and staff will feel his loss, but wish him the very best in his new endeavor.

    Comment by Brenda Strunk — May 11, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  3. Were it not be for Dr.Johnson I would not be alive today. I was diagnosed with lung cancer in Aug. of 2000 – – I was fearfull of chemotherapy but was persuaded by Dr. Johnson,after a ninety minute discussion,that it was probably my best option prior to any surgery. He and his staff carried me through my ordeal for which I will be eternally gratefull. Best wishes Dr. Johnson,we will miss you.

    Comment by Frank Shiveley — May 31, 2010 @ 6:34 am

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