John R. Wingard, M.D., the University of Florida Health Cancer Center’s deputy director who has led the UF Health Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program since 1996, has retired after 27 years at the University of Florida.
Wingard, a professor and the Price Eminent Scholar in the UF College of Medicine, was honored at a celebration on July 6 at the Cancer Center and presented with an engraved chair.
“Dr. Wingard’s impact on our patients, faculty and trainees has been immeasurable, and we will dearly miss his fastidious medical care, holistic approach to patient care and commitment to our center’s mission,” said Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., director of the Cancer Center. “Along with our entire institution, I am eternally grateful for what Dr. Wingard has done to help give us our lasting legacy: designation from the National Cancer Institute. Throughout his distinguished career, he has mentored scores of faculty, fellows, medical students and other trainees. All have been inspired to the highest level of science and medicine due to his dedication and skill.”
Wingard joined the University of Florida in 1996 and has led Florida’s longest-established bone marrow transplant center since then. The program has a history of influencing national benchmarks for quality and innovation in stem cell transplantation and patient care. A medical oncologist with a clinical focus on hematopoietic cell transplantation and hematologic malignancies, Wingard is recognized internationally as a leader in clinical research. He has been NIH-funded for over 20 years and has more than 450 publications that have been cited over 77,000 times, placing him in the top 3% to 5% of all investigators ever published.
Wingard’s impact extends far beyond the tangible measures of success. Nurses, patients, fellows and all who interacted with him praised him for his unwavering presence that helped see them through the most challenging circumstances, always ready with the right words and time to listen.
Partha Iyer, a former patient of Wingard’s who underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia at UF Health in 1997, traveled to Gainesville from a vacation in Alaska to surprise Wingard at the retirement celebration.
On Jan. 27, 1997, Iyer and his wife were intending to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Instead, they found themselves scheduled for a bone marrow transplant consult with Wingard.
“We were young, scared and unsure of what the future held for the two of us,” said Iyer, who lives in Michigan. “To this day, I truly believe that it is not what Dr. Wingard could or could not have done for us in terms of medications or treatment, but his care, compassion and remarkable ability to answer our innumerable questions, however dumb or repetitive they were, with patience that helped us fight this battle.”
“It is not what Dr. Wingard could or could not have done for us in terms of medications or treatment, but his care, compassion and remarkable ability to answer our innumerable questions, however dumb or repetitive they were, with patience that helped us fight this battle.”Partha Iyer, former patient
Over the years, the two stayed in touch, and Wingard’s impact extended well beyond the clinic. He even wrote Iyer’s wife a letter of recommendation for a residency program. So when Iyer’s two daughters expressed their interest in medicine, Iyer and his wife had just one request.
“Be the kind of physician that Dr. Wingard was and continues to be for us,” Iyer said. “Over the last 26 years since meeting Dr. Wingard, I have lost some hair, gained some weight, but most importantly got my life back.”
As much as his patients have given to him, Wingard said, he has received more from them.
“My patients have inspired me by their courage, their resilience and their love despite facing enormous adversity,” Wingard said. “They have taught me so many lessons about what’s important in life. They give me great optimism for the future, and I strive to be as brave as my patients. I have been very fortunate to be in service to others and make a difference.”
“My patients have inspired me by their courage, their resilience and their love despite facing enormous adversity.”John R. Wingard, M.D.
Wingard has served in a variety of leadership roles at UF Health. He was selected for the role of deputy director at the Cancer Center as part of a slate of leadership changes to position the center to achieve NCI designation. Prior to being named deputy director, he served as associate director for clinical research and deputy director for research.
As deputy director, Wingard played a key role in developing and completing the Cancer Center’s application for NCI designation. He took an active role on the center’s Executive Committee, Senior Leadership Committee and Internal Senior Advisory Committee, setting strategic direction, policy and priorities for the center. He was also integral in developing and monitoring progress on the Cancer Center’s strategic plan.
“Working to achieve NCI designation was the most privileged I have ever been to be part of a team effort and the most important accomplishment in my career,” Wingard said. “We have succeeded enormously in making our institution stronger and creating opportunities for our community.”
At the Cancer Center, Wingard also oversaw membership, including selection, policies and reviews; chaired the Data Integrity and Safety Committee and the Disease Site Group leaders’ quarterly meetings; represented the center on the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Steering Committee and on the UF Office of Clinical Research and OnCore Implementation Committees; and administratively oversaw the center’s Good Manufacturing Practices facility for cell therapies.
Wingard received his undergraduate training at Yale University and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University. He completed his residency at University of Tennessee and his oncology fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. He began his faculty career at Johns Hopkins, subsequently joining the faculty at Emory University, where he also directed the Bone Marrow Transplant Program.
Wingard has served in several leadership roles on national committees, including chair of the National Marrow Donor Program. He has received numerous awards, including being honored twice with the University of Florida Research Foundation Professorship.
Please help us congratulate Dr. Wingard on his outstanding career at the University of Florida and wish him the very best in retirement!