American Cancer Society honors Ruckdeschel with St. George Award
Published on Friday, September 21, 2018
By: Cynthia Wall
The American Cancer Society recognized Dr. John Ruckdeschel, director of the University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Institute, for his lifetime body of work to eradicate cancer and his continuing support of the ACS.
The ACS presented the St. George National Award to Ruckdeschel during a ceremony in Jackson Sept. 20.
“I am deeply honored by this award,” said Ruckdeschel, professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology.
“The ACS has always been there for cancer patients and cancer research," he said. "Working with them and for them has been one of the highlights of my career.”
As she presented the award to Ruckdeschel, Dr. Letitia Thompson, vice president of cancer control for the ACS South Region, said, “This is the most prestigious award the ACS bestows on volunteers. This national award is given to volunteers who fight to put forth the mission and strategy of the ACS.”
“We are thankful for his long history of supporting the American Cancer Society’s mission throughout the country and (we are) excited to continue working with him to impact the cancer burden here in Mississippi,” said Jennifer Myrick, ACS hospital systems senior manager.
Citing his 30-plus years of working with the ACS in multiple states, Ruckdeschel said the partnership furthers patient care. He commended the ACS for its work on the Gertrude C. Ford Hope Lodge in Jackson, currently under construction adjacent to UMMC.
The Hope Lodge is scheduled to open in early 2019 and will provide rooms for patients being treated at Jackson-area cancer centers and their family members. Lodging and transportation to treatment are free.
“This is particularly needed in Mississippi because we have so many patients coming from around the state," Ruckdeschel said. "Hope Lodge brings together those patients and their families and they can support each other.”
Conceived in 1949 by Dr. Charles S. Cameron, former ACS medical and scientific director, the St. George National Award has been presented annually to ACS volunteers nationwide. Nominees must have served as leaders in the community, mission delivery and/or governance in more than one area of focus for a minimum of four continuous years and must represent ACS in a manner that advances the cause and expands community presence. The St. George National Award Task Force reviews all nominations and shares the award winners with the ACS Board of Directors.
“It’s an honor to acknowledge these extraordinary individuals for their perseverance and leadership to ACS,” said Dr. Kevin J. Cullen, chair of the ACS Board of Directors and director of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our volunteers work tirelessly to help the ACS lead the fight for a world without cancer, and these awardees have continued to make substantial impact to our strategic goals and mission-driven programs.”
Ruckdeschel is a medical oncologist with a focus on thoracic malignancies. A native of Rhode Island, he completed high school, college and medical school in New York. He has received multiple awards for his work as a physician, researcher and educator.
He trained at Johns Hopkins, Harvard and the National Cancer Institute and then joined the faculty at Albany Medical College. He left to become the first CEO at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, leading it to a National Cancer Institute comprehensive designation and a top-10 designation in U.S. News and World Report. While at Moffitt he also served as president of the Florida Division of the ACS and led efforts to place a Hope Lodge at Moffitt Cancer Center. He later served as CEO of the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit and the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas.
Ruckdeschel came to UMMC in January 2017, as UMMC Cancer Institute director. His research, which focuses on lung cancer and patient-physician communication, has resulted in close to 200 peer-reviewed publications. He is preparing the cancer programs at UMMC to successfully attain NCI designation and, more importantly, to help lower cancer deaths for all Mississippians.