Dr Eric Winer's Unusual Journey Home

New Director of Yale Cancer Center

Nick Mulcahy

October 22, 2021

High-profile breast cancer specialist Eric Winer, MD, is moving from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to take up a new position as director of the Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven, in Connecticut, where he starts in February 2022.

This is "the end of a marvelous era for us," commented fellow Dana-Farber breast cancer specialist Hal Burstein, MD, on Twitter. "We wish you every success and joy in this new role."

Yale is excited to have him. "Dr. Winer is a nationally-recognized leader in breast cancer care and research, a much sought-after mentor for younger clinicians and an advocate for his patients," said Marna Borgstrom, chief executive officer, Yale New Haven Health, in a press statement. "We are delighted to welcome him to Smilow Cancer Hospital where he'll lead a team that shares his passion and commitment to providing exceptional care to cancer patients."

An alumnus of both Yale College and Yale School of Medicine, Winer is going home to where he started his medical career.

"I am thrilled to be returning to Yale," said Winer. "As a community, I believe we can become a premier cancer center in the next five years. I look forward to building upon the strong clinical and research programs already in place and to enhance collaborations between laboratory and clinical investigators."

Winer's path to prominence has not been an easy or stereotypical journey.

During medical school at Yale, Winer, who was born with hemophilia, became one of about 10,000 Americans who were infected with HIV between 1979 and 1983 from contaminated blood products. He was also infected with hepatitis C. He publicly disclosed these details from his extraordinary life and career story 5 years ago during an award lecture at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

After finishing medical school at Yale, he completed a fellowship in hematology/oncology at Duke University School of Medicine and served on the Duke faculty from 1989 to 1997.

During that period, his livelihood ― and his life ― were at risk, he acknowledged during the SABCS lecture.

Winer also revealed that the stigma associated with HIV was so immense that he led an "undercover life" in the late 1980s and 1990s. "I could barely tell my friends and colleagues," he said, referring to his HIV diagnosis. Like so many other people living with HIV, he eventually became the beneficiary of life-changing highly active antiretroviral therapy.

From Duke, he moved to Dana-Farber. He is currently the Thompson Chair in Breast Cancer Research, chief clinical development officer, and senior vice president for medical affairs at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

A high-profile researcher, Winer has written over 350 original articles and has served as the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health–funded SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) in Breast Cancer for the past 10 years.

He is also president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a member of the scientific advisory board of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. He also served as chief scientific advisor and chair of the scientific advisory board for Susan G. Komen for the Cure for 10 years. He currently co-leads the National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Steering Committee.

Nick Mulcahy is an award-winning senior journalist for Medscape, specializing in oncology. Email nmulcahy@medscape.net and on Twitter: @MulcahyNick.

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