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Moffitt CEO Predicts Cure for Cancer Within 50 Years

By Elizabeth L. Brown

Patrick Hwu and Moez Limayem

TAMPA (October 21, 2021) -- Nearly a year since taking the helm at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Patrick Hwu is on a mission to stamp out cancer within 50 years — possibly even within 30 to 40 years — by bridging the business and scientific research communities together.

As the president and CEO of Moffitt Cancer Center since November 2020, Hwu was the featured invited guest to the Muma College of Business’s Conversation with a CEO series on Oct. 21.

“Since being here in the last year, I feel like every cell in my body is energized,” Hwu told the roomful of about 60 guests held at the USF Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.

The forum is an opportunity for USF Muma College of Business Lynn Pippenger Dean Moez Limayem to sit down with prominent business leaders and take a deep dive into their careers, leadership strategies, and emerging industry trends.

Thursday’s conversation with Hwu centered on his expertise in melding his 30 years of scientific researcher experience in cancer immunology with becoming the head of a major cancer research institution.

Prior to Moffitt, Hwu spent 17 years at MD Anderson in Texas. He was chair of the Department of Sarcoma Medical Oncology, co-director of the Center for Cancer Immunology Research and the first chair of the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology.

One of the first questions Dean Limayem asked Hwu was how he successfully transitioned from the laboratory to the C-suite.

“I never thought I’d be the CEO of a major cancer center. That was never my goal. My goal was always to find ways to get the immune system to fight cancer,” Hwu said. “I learned that you can actually influence more if you help everybody else succeed.”

He added that he considers himself the chief integration officer – someone who brings science, business and healthcare together, working toward curing cancer.

He also said being a science advisor to Moffitt for eight years before taking the top leadership job helped with the transition.

Hwu predicted that in 50 years, it’s going to be rare for someone to die of cancer. Thanks to advances in vaccines, increased health screenings, and people living a healthier lifestyle, the cancer rate can be reduced. And if community and business partners join in with the research side, they can bring that number down to 35 to 40 years.

“I knew this place was rocking. The community wants to cure cancer. The state of Florida wants to cure cancer. And I’ve just been so welcomed by everybody,” he said.

On why Moffitt is ranked as one of the best places to work and for customer patient care, Hwu said he sees the reasons every day, from the valet workers who escort patients from their cars to the custodians and staff he meets on the elevator.

“I think it’s caring. There’s a million metrics. But at the end of the day, it’s caring. It’s caring about each other. Caring about our colleagues. Caring about our patients. If people feel respected and that they’re cared for, then they feel it’s a great place to work. I don’t think I have any different hierarchy than the person mopping the floor,” Hwu said.

Hwu added that it’s active listening that is his “secret weapon” in having a success transition at Moffitt.

He said he also wants to see Moffitt diversify its sources of revenue with more joint ventures with the business community. That is the only quickest way to get life-saving vaccines from the laboratory through FDA approval and into cancer patients.

“What we’re is not just writing papers. We’re trying to influence and get these treatments to people,” he said.