Joann Sweasy, PhD, honored by Penn radiation oncology

Joann Sweasy, PhD

Joann Sweasy, PhD, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, has been honored by Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology, at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, by delivering its annual John Yuhas Memorial Lecture.

Dr. Sweasy was a unanimous pick for the honor, said Costas Koumenis, PhD, the Richard H. Chamberlain Professor of Radiation Oncology at Penn, director of the radiation oncology department’s research division, who served on the selection committee.

“She was a natural choice for us,” Dr. Koumenis said, calling it “exciting” that Dr. Sweasy accepted the award and came to Penn to deliver the Yuhas lecture.

“It is a special honor for me to receive this award from one of the top radiation oncology departments in the U.S.,” Dr. Sweasy said. “Members of this department are performing exceptional cancer research and taking care of patients with cutting-edge therapies.”

Jim Metz, MD, chair of Penn Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology, and Costas Koumenis, PhD, Chamberlain Professor of Radiation Oncology at Penn, with Yuhas award honoree and lecturer Joann Sweasy, PhD, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

She added, “It was a great pleasure to interact with these world-class scientists and receive the Yuhas award.”

Dr. Yuhas was a promising researcher at Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology who was building his lab team when he died in 1984. His specialty was studying how radiation impacts damage of DNA, and how to protect normal tissues from the effects of radiation while treating cancer. The Yuhas award committee annually searches for international scholars in this field of study. Dr. Sweasy stood out, Dr. Koumenis said.

“Her work on DNA damage and repair has been instrumental and transformative in our field,” he said. “Not only in terms of cancer, but also other diseases, such as lupus. Her talk showed us the potential for expanding the spectrum of these studies beyond cancer.”

Moreover, “Now that she is leading a major cancer center, this raises the visibility of our field,” Dr. Koumenis said.

Many working in the area of interest had “crossed paths” with Dr. Sweasy at conferences, but attendees were delighted to meet her and speak more in depth, Dr. Koumenis said. Dr. Sweasy took time to “meet and talk with our trainees, graduate students, doctoral fellows. She described her path in the field and how she rose through the ranks. That was a great interaction.”

“Their trainees are remarkable,” Dr. Sweasy said.

Dr. Koumenis called Dr. Sweasy’s lecture “an inspiration” and said he hopes for future collaboration between the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and Penn Medicine.

In addition to the Yuhas award, Dr. Sweasy was presented a statue of Benjamin Franklin, founder of the University of Pennsylvania.

1 comment

  1. Keyonna King says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Sweasy! This is a tremendous honor and makes me incredibly proud to have the opportunity to work with you at the Buffett Cancer Center.

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