Center News Magazine: Memorial Hospital Physician-in-Chief Robert Wittes to Step Down

By Memorial Sloan Kettering  |  Thursday, December 1, 2011
Pictured: Robert Wittes Memorial Hospital Physician-in-Chief Robert E. Wittes

Memorial Hospital Physician-in-Chief Robert E. Wittes has announced his intention to step down after a decade of service to Memorial Sloan Kettering in that position. The announcement came from Memorial Sloan Kettering President Craig B. Thompson in a letter to the community. Dr. Thompson said that Dr. Wittes has agreed to stay on until his successor is named.

In March 2012 he will have led Memorial Sloan Kettering’s clinical enterprise for ten years, but he has made the institution his professional home for much longer. 

Dr. Wittes trained at Memorial Hospital and was an attending physician in the Department of Medicine for ten years. He left in 1983 to join the National Cancer Institute and later served as Senior Vice President of Cancer Research at Bristol-Myers Squibb, rejoining the NCI as Chief of the Medicine Branch in 1990. In 1995, he became the NCI’s Deputy Director of Extramural Science and also directed the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. Dr. Wittes returned to Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2002 as Physician-in-Chief.

During his tenure, Memorial Sloan Kettering began a period of extraordinary growth across both its clinical and research programs. Among Dr. Wittes’s accomplishments as Physician-in-Chief has been the establishment of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, the Survivorship Initiative, and the Quality of Care Initiative. He also oversaw the construction of major new clinical facilities that have enhanced the Center’s programs in surgery, pathology, pediatrics, imaging, and the treatment of a full range of cancers.

It has been my privilege and pleasure to work in partnership with Bob. An extraordinary physician and oncologist, a brilliant leader, and a generous collaborator, he has been tireless in fostering innovative clinical research and ensuring that the care delivered to our patients has been of the highest quality,” Dr. Thompson said. “No matter who succeeds him, it is safe to say that Memorial Sloan Kettering will always bear the imprint of Bob's inspiring leadership and commitment to excellence. On a personal level, we have all been enriched by having him as a mentor and a colleague.