by Roya Naqvi
After 11 years of service, James S. Miser, M.D., is stepping down from his position as chief executive officer and chief medical officer of City of Hope National Medical Center. Colleagues and staff say his leadership and commitment have left an indelible impression on the institution and its patients.
“Dr. Miser’s contributions are among City of Hope’s most significant,” said Theodore Krontiris, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president, Medical and Scientific Affairs and director, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center. “He developed an outstanding academic and clinical pediatric oncology program that provides care of the highest quality to children with life-threatening diseases. His leadership helped City of Hope maintain our patient focus and charitable mission while undergoing a major transformation into a research-centered institution. And, he effectively built the medical staff to accomplish our strategic expansion.”
Renowned for his research and treatment of sarcoma among children and young adults, Miser joined City of Hope in 1995 as chair of pediatrics. Miser helped establish the pediatric program alongside adult programs in many areas, including immunotherapy, outcomes research, hematology and hematopoietic cell transplantation — combining outstanding patient care with clinical research that made a difference.
In 1995, few pediatric patients were admitted and fewer still underwent bone marrow transplantation — and the program had no infrastructure or clinical research, said Judith Sato, M.D., acting chair, Division of Pediatrics.
“Within the first two months of Dr. Miser’s and my arrival, exciting changes and growth occurred,” Sato said. “The number of pediatric patients being cared for tripled. New physicians, nurse practitioners, research nurses, clinical research associates, social workers, physical therapists and psychologists were recruited, to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for these patients.
“Under Dr. Miser’s leadership, the Division of Pediatrics grew to include critical programs for City of Hope Cancer Center with program leaders who are nationally and internationally recognized pediatricians.”
In 2001, Miser was appointed chief executive officer of the medical center and focused his efforts on improving patient safety and quality of care, as well as fostering relationships among staff, physicians and nurses.
“It is a privilege, not a right, to lead a medical center,” Miser said. “City of Hope cares for people with serious conditions. Our first thoughts should always be about how we can provide better care and advance treatment.”
Under his guidance, City of Hope undertook many drives to improve the quality of patient care, including Helford Clinical Research Hospital, which opened in July 2005 and offers advanced care in a technologically superior environment. Miser also was instrumental in recruiting key administrators, such as Larry Kidd, M.P.A., R.N., vice president of Patient Services and chief nurse executive. Many of those leaders will play a part in coordinating a seamless transition upon Miser’s departure.
“What we have seen so clearly from Dr. Miser’s leadership is a high standard of patient care and compassion that has come to define City of Hope,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer. “Dr. Miser has also been instrumental in the expansion of our service lines and in establishing outstanding relationships with the City of Hope Medical Group, which have enhanced the scope of our medical center and quality of care for patients.”
Tiffany Yip, 27, has been Miser’s patient for more than a decade. Although her cancer has recurred eight times, in all the years she has known Miser, she never cried when he told her the cancer was back because she knew he would give her the most modern care available. Said Yip: “The day I was told Dr. Miser was leaving City of Hope, I cried.”
Besides his accomplishments in pediatric oncology, Miser also has been an important mentor to a new generation of City of Hope scientists. Michael Jensen, M.D., associate chair, Division of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology, began working with Miser in 1993 at the University of Washington. “He is an individual who exudes intellect, integrity and compassion. These attributes have been a guiding force in my maturation as a physician-scientist,” Jensen said. “When the world is perceived from his vantage point, the humanitarian social imperatives of cancer research become self-evident. I was lucky to grow up professionally under his mentorship."
Miser looks back with pride at his time at the institution. “City of Hope has been able to accomplish so much during the time I have served here, and it’s a wonderful feeling to know that it will continue,” said Miser. “Everyone at City of Hope, from administrators to medical and research staff to development to facilities, shares a common vision and is committed to establishing City of Hope as a center of excellence.”
Sato, who has known Miser for more than 20 years, says she has learned a tremendous amount working with him. “He strived for excellence in all aspects of his career and his life and encourages everyone around him to achieve such excellence,” she said. “There are many children who are alive today because he didn’t give up and carefully crafted their therapy to optimally fit the individual child. In many ways, he has become the heart and soul of City of Hope and has incorporated his vision for each and every one of us into our way of life. I will truly miss him.”