John Ultmann: Founding Director of the UChicago Cancer Research Center


John E. Ultmann, MD, (1925-2000) was an internationally recognized expert in the diagnosis, staging and treatment of Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as the development of cancer chemotherapy. He was a professor in the Department of Medicine and founding director of the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center (now known as the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center).

Ultmann was a pioneer in efforts to distinguish the many different types of lymphoma. He was particularly known for his work on the accurate staging of Hodgkin’s disease and the uses of staging as a guide to treatment.

“John Ultmann was an early proponent of the multidisciplinary approach to lymphoma treatment, which is associated with dramatically improved disease curability,” said Samuel Hellman, MD, AN Pritzker Distinguished Service Professor at radiotherapy department. and Cellular Oncology and former Dean of Biological Sciences at the University. “He was known within the University as an outstanding teacher who has trained many current leaders in the field, as a key player in assembling the world-renowned medical oncology group here, and as a compassionate physician who has cared for his patients until just weeks before his own death.

Ultmann also played an important role in the growth and evolution of the field of medical oncology, serving as Chairman of the Board of Scientific Advisors to the Division of Cancer Treatment of the National Cancer Institute from 1976 to 1980, as 1981-82 President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 1984-1986 President and Chairman of the Board of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, and 1985-1990 President of the National Coalition for Cancer Research.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, John Ultmann was a leading advocate for the accurate diagnosis and staging of Hodgkin’s disease, which proved to be extremely important in the choice of therapy,” said Harvey Golomb, MD, professor and chair of medicine at the University of Chicago. “In addition to practicing medicine, Ultmann has also trained many distinguished cancer specialists,” said Golomb, who came to Chicago to work with Ultmann, “including several who are now directors of other cancer centers, such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Miami.”

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