UF Health Cancer Center director named AAAS Fellow

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center, has been named a 2023 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a distinguished lifetime honor within the scientific community. 

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D.

Licht was recognized for contributions to the field of cancer epigenetics, including shedding light on how gene regulation by mutant transcription factors and chromatin modifiers contributes to cancer, and exploring the roles of deregulated downstream targets in cancer development. A visionary physician-scientist, Licht’s lab studies aberrant gene regulation as a cause of blood cancers and develops treatment strategies to reverse abnormal, cancer-causing gene functions. 

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. The honor, which includes alumni such as Thomas Edison and W.E.B. DuBois, is among the most distinctive in academia and recognizes extraordinary impact and achievement across disciplines.  

“Dr. Licht is an internationally known expert in the molecular basis of blood cancers who has made tremendous contributions to epigenetics research,” said Jennifer L. Hunt, M.D., M.Ed., interim dean of the UF College of Medicine. “His research has advanced our understanding of how changes to our genes affect cancer development, and his work as a leader and mentor in the UF College of Medicine has made an outstanding impact.” 

Licht, who holds the Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. Chair and is a professor in the division of hematology/oncology in the UF College of Medicine, is among 502 scientists and innovators elected to the 2023 class, including 12 faculty from UF. The class includes UF Health Cancer Center member Linda Cottler, Ph.D., the Dean’s Professor of Epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health & Health Professions. 

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., has served as the UF Health Cancer Center’s director since 2015.

Licht’s cancer career spans three decades and his research program is distinguished by over 30 years of continuous National Cancer Institute (NCI) and national foundation funding. He leads a Specialized Center of Research program from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and has authored more than 220 publications with nearly 34,000 citations.  

In June 2023, under his leadership, the University of Florida became the 72nd National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. To reach the major milestone, Licht oversaw a doubling of cancer-relevant funding, a tripling of NCI funding and a doubling of therapeutic accruals to clinical trials at the UF Health Cancer Center. 

“Dr. Licht’s steadfast leadership of the Cancer Center has been unparalleled, and his unwavering commitment over more than seven years to our goal of becoming an NCI cancer center enabled us to get across the finish line last year,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF. “We are very proud of Dr. Licht’s numerous accomplishments and contributions to our health system, the field of oncology and, most importantly, the patients we serve.” 

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., speaks during the news conference.
Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., speaks during the NCI designation press conference on June 20, 2023.

Licht currently serves as the founding editor-in-chief of Blood Neoplasia, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Society of Hematology, in addition to serving on the editorial boards of several prominent peer-reviewed cancer journals. He also serves as chief scientific advisor to the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation and has held key positions in the American Society of Hematology, the American Association for Cancer Research and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

A dedicated teacher, Licht has mentored over 40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and 20 faculty members. In 2021, he was the winner of the American Society of Hematology Basic Sciences Mentor Award. 

A graduate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Licht completed his internal medicine residency and medical oncology fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Before joining UF in 2015, he served as chief of hematology/oncology at Northwestern University and Mount Sinai. 

The 2023 class of AAAS Fellows comprises 502 scientists, engineers and innovators across 24 AAAS disciplinary sections. Licht will receive a certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin (representing science and engineering, respectively) to commemorate his election at a forum on Sept. 21 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. That evening, AAAS will also celebrate the program’s 150th anniversary.  

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