Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., Named Cancer Institute Auxiliary Distinguished Honoree

By Susan Van Dusen

At the virtual reception, van Rhee was presented with the Distinguished Honoree Award, a presentation made annually by the Cancer Institute Department of Volunteer Services and Auxiliary.

Among a handful of guests who gathered in person to salute van Rhee for his years of service to the Cancer Institute’s Myeloma Center were UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA; Kent Westbrook, M.D., distinguished professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Surgery; and Jonathan Laryea, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Surgery and medical director of the cancer service line.

Distinguished Honoree Reception

Kent Westbrook, M.D., (third from left) speaks to the online Zoom audience while (from left) honoree Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D.; UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA; and Jonathan Laryea, M.D., listen.Susan Van Dusen

“Dr. van Rhee is a problem solver, a strong leader and a constant team player. UAMS would not be the institution it is today without the work and dedication of Dr. van Rhee,” Patterson said to the online audience of Cancer Institute auxiliary members and friends.

In addition to serving as clinical director of the Myeloma Center, van Rhee is a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine. He is internationally recognized as a leading expert in blood cancers, including multiple myeloma and Castleman disease, a rare disease that affects the lymph nodes and related tissue.

Together with his patient and fellow physician David Fajgenbaum, M.D., van Rhee co-founded the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network, an international program dedicated to accelerating research and therapies for Castleman disease.

Frits van Rhee with Volunteer Services staff

Honoree Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., (seated) with staff members from the UAMS Cancer Institute Department of Volunteer Services and Auxiliary (from left) Sandy Henry, Janie Lowe and Susan Jones.Bryan Clifton

“Dr. van Rhee is a steady influence who calms the waves, rather than making them. With his guidance, UAMS’ Myeloma Center has developed a well-deserved reputation for outstanding and innovative research and treatment programs that attract patients from around the world,” said Westbrook, co-founder of the Cancer Institute.

In receiving the award, van Rhee recognized the auxiliary for its service to patients through endeavors such as Most Vital Pal, a program in which volunteers escort patients to appointments on their first day at UAMS.

“Our patients often face a daunting list of appointments, and the personal attention provided by volunteers is not only useful, but also is greatly appreciated,” said van Rhee, who holds the Charles and Clydene Scharlau Chair for Hematological Malignancies.

He also pointed out the auxiliary’s support of the Seed of Hope program in which patients recognize a milestone in their treatment, the Cancer Institute Auxiliary Gift Shop and the Auxiliary Grants Program that provides funds for patient-centered services.

“Arkansas’ greatest treasure is its people, and that is exemplified by the care and support shown to our patients by the Cancer Institute volunteers,” van Rhee said.

Van Rhee and Westbrook

Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., (left) with Kent Westbrook, M.D., prior to the reception.Bryan Clifton

After earning his medical degree at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands, van Rhee completed his Ph.D. at the Imperial College of Science, Medicine and Technology at the University of London. He trained in internal medicine and hematology in the U.K., and in bone marrow transplantation at John Radcliffe University Hospital in Oxford and the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London. He joined the faculty at UAMS in January 2001.

The Cancer Institute Auxiliary is one of Arkansas’ largest volunteer organizations with almost 500 members dedicated to providing information, service, compassion and hope to those whose lives are touched by cancer. Each year, the auxiliary selects a faculty or staff member at the Cancer Institute to honor for his or her dedication to the institute’s mission.

Janie Lowe serves as director of the UAMS Cancer Institute Department of Volunteer Services and Auxiliary. Peyton Woodyard is the auxiliary’s 2020-2021 president.