Memorial Sloan Kettering President Harold Varmus Announces His Intention to Step Down


Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center President Harold Varmus announced on January 12 that he has asked the Memorial Sloan Kettering Boards of Overseers and Managers to begin a search for his successor. The announcement was made as part of his annual New Year letter to the Center’s staff. (The letter can be read in its entirety at

Dr. Varmus, co-recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of cancer genes, was recruited to Memorial Sloan Kettering after serving as Director of the National Institutes of Health for more than six years. In his statement, Dr. Varmus noted that his intention when he arrived at Memorial Sloan Kettering at the start of 2000 was to serve as President for about ten years. “I have greatly enjoyed this job, and I still do,” he wrote, “but I believe … that our institution would now benefit from a fresh approach to the issues it will face in the decade ahead.”

During the process of recruiting a successor, Dr. Varmus said he plans “to continue to conduct the Center’s affairs with the same energy and enthusiasm that I have brought to the job for the past ten years.” While asking that “farewells” and “valedictories” be deferred, he urged that members of the Memorial Sloan Kettering community “help the Board’s search committee find the best possible new leader for the institution, while we continue to make progress against cancer as healers, scientists, and educators.”

In the statement distributed to the press at the time of Dr. Varmus’ announcement (see, Douglas A. Warner III, Chairman of the Boards of Overseers and Managers, said, “Since joining Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2000, Harold has provided exceptional and visionary leadership for the institution. He has emphasized opportunities to harness advances in the biological sciences to improve the care of patients with cancer. Our continued success as an institution is due in great measure to Harold’s expertise and far-sighted leadership.”