The University of Florida Health Cancer Center has appointed two accomplished oncologists to key executive leadership roles. The appointments will position the center to reach even greater heights in cancer research and care after achieving designation from the National Cancer Institute, or NCI, in June.
Thomas George, M.D., FACP, a distinguished clinician and clinical investigator who has served as the inaugural associate director for clinical research at the Cancer Center since 2016, has been named deputy director. George, a professor in the division of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers and early-phase cancer drug development, assumes the position after John R. Wingard, M.D., retired in July after 27 years at UF.
Paul Crispen, M.D., a urologic oncologist, has been named associate director for clinical research. Crispen, a professor in the department of urology, has extensive experience with clinical trials. From 2017 to 2022, he served as the founding chair of the Cancer Center’s Scientific Review and Monitoring Committee, which provides critical peer review of cancer-relevant studies at UF before they are activated.
“I am thrilled that Dr. George and Dr. Crispen are taking on these essential leadership roles at this exciting time as we continue the development of our newly NCI-Designated Cancer Center,” said Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center. “Dr. George is among the most respected clinical investigators in the field, and his extraordinary leadership skills and energy will enable us to reach our next milestones. Dr. Crispen is a leader in urologic oncology, and our clinical research operations will benefit hugely from his knowledge, expertise and efficiencies in clinical trials operations.”
In his new role, George will serve as the center’s second in command and ensure the center meets the needs of its members, communities and patients. He will work alongside Cancer Center and institutional leadership to successfully execute the center’s strategic plan.
“With NCI designation, we have been provided a clear responsibility and an amazing opportunity to make an enduring difference not just here, but across our state and nation,” George said. “I am truly honored and humbled to take on this role. I have big shoes to fill, but I could not be more excited to contribute to the continued success of our cancer research and clinical programs.”
George completed his undergraduate degree, Doctor of Medicine degree, internal medicine residency and hematology and oncology fellowship at UF. He has extensive experience as a member of multidisciplinary collaborative research teams focusing on personalized treatment and decision-making for patients. Through participation with large oncology clinical trial cooperative groups and the NCI, George is active in developing practice-changing clinical trials, as well as early-phase clinical trials testing new therapies for patients with advanced cancers.
A dedicated educator and mentor, he previously led the UF Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program and served a 10-year term as the gubernatorial-appointed chair of the Florida Cancer Control and Research Advisory Council, which advises the legislature, Department of Health and state surgeon general on all cancer-related matters and policy.
Ensuring the center is on pace to reach its next goal — achieving an even higher level of designation from the NCI known as comprehensive status — will require the entire University of Florida, George said.
“We currently have members from 11 of the 16 UF college engaged in cancer research activities, and I would like to help us expand to include faculty members from all 16 colleges,” he said. “Improvements in cancer discoveries and outcomes can come only through innovation, and we need all hands on deck in our mission to tackle the challenges of cancer.”
“Improvements in cancer discoveries and outcomes can come only through innovation, and we need all hands on deck in our mission to tackle to challenges of cancer.”Thomas George, M.D., FACP
In his new role, Crispen’s main responsibility will be to guide the Cancer Center’s clinical trials portfolio, ensuring all clinical trials meet patients’ needs and advance cancer care. This requires coordination with the Cancer Center’s basic science researchers, population science researchers and Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.
“I am delighted to take on this position, which will enable me to advocate for all patients receiving care at UF Health,” Crispen said. “My primary goal is to increase opportunities for our patients to participate in clinical trials, which will involve improving the efficiency of opening trials, enhancing identification of patients who may be eligible for trials, and developing investigator-initiated trials at UF Health that best meet the needs of our patients.”
Crispen specializes in the surgical treatment of cancers involving the kidney, bladder, prostate, testis and penis. He received his medical degree at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, where he also completed a urology residency. He then completed fellowship training in urologic oncology at the Mayo Clinic.
Crispen is also a research leader with the Cancer Center’s Genitourinary Disease Site Group. He is skilled in all areas of clinical trials, including patient recruitment, data and specimen collection, adverse event reporting, patient consent and collaboration across clinical specialties.
Both George and Crispen have won numerous awards for their teaching and clinical care, including the UF Health Cancer Center’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2013 and 2015, respectively.