The John H. Glick, MD Abramson Cancer Center Director’s Professorship

John H. GlickCreated in 2007 by a dedicated group of Penn Medicine friends and supporters, the Professorship honors John H. Glick, MD for his extraordinary career in oncology and his devotion to patients.

In 2021, after nearly five decades of unsurpassed leadership and impact at Penn Medicine, John H. Glick, MD, Professor of Medicine and the Madlyn & Leonard Abramson Professor of Clinical Oncology, retired.

Dr. Glick joined the Penn faculty in 1974 as the Ann B. Young Assistant Professor, after completing fellowships at the National Cancer Institute and Stanford. Over the course of a distinguished career spent entirely at Penn, he has touched the lives of countless thousands of patients and been a guiding force through a transformational era of cancer care. The breadth and depth of his legacy impact every corner of our enterprise — from establishing the medical oncology program as a young physician, to guiding the Abramson Cancer Center to national preeminence and leading it longer than any other Director, to wide-ranging contributions as a researcher, teacher and mentor, fundraiser, talent recruiter, role model, and champion of professionalism.

In all these roles, Dr. Glick has been first and foremost a master clinician. His compassion and clinical insight drove the development of integrated cancer clinical care at Penn Medicine, including the development of psychosocial and nutritional counseling services that led to establishment of the Patient and Family Services Program. His clinical acumen and focus on keeping patients’ lives and their needs at the heart of every treatment goal has had broad impact, leading in 2013 to establishment of the Penn Medicine Academy of Master Clinicians to promote and perpetuate clinical excellence in all specialties across our institution.

As Cancer Center director from 1985 – 2006, Dr. Glick made the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) a national model for a comprehensive center, drawing on resources and faculty from Penn and CHOP. The turning point came in 1997, with a transformative gift of $100 million from Leonard and Madlyn Abramson to establish the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute (AFCRI). Dr. Glick met the Abramsons when Madlyn had breast cancer and was his patient. She not only survived her disease but became for decades, until her passing in 2020, a guiding spirit for development of a world-class cancer center at Penn. The Abramsons’ philanthropy facilitated an unprecedented expansion of cancer research and faculty recruitment. In the span of less than a decade, a total of 90 new faculty were jointly recruited to multiple departments and the Cancer Center with AFCRI support. In recognition of their impact, the Cancer Center was named the Abramson Cancer Center in 2002.

In addition to his formative leadership of the ACC, Dr. Glick also played an instrumental role in the creation of the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, which was established with a pivotal naming gift from Wharton alumnus the late Ralph J. Roberts and wife Suzanne, his son Brian L. Roberts, and Brian’s wife Aileen. Dr. Glick became a driving force in philanthropy at Penn Medicine, culminating in his role as Vice President and Associate Dean for Resource Development. Since 1985, he helped to raise over $600 million for Penn Medicine and the ACC, establishing many centers in partnership with grateful patient philanthropists, including the Rena Rowan Breast Center and the Thalheimer Cardio-Oncology Center and significant funding for the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. His focus on recruiting top talent has had an equally lasting imprint on Penn Medicine. Over the years, he has chaired the search committees for half of the current clinical department chairs at the Perelman School of Medicine. A legendary teacher and role model, Dr. Glick has trained and mentored several generations of medical students, residents, and fellows - including three Directors of NCI-designated Cancer Centers.

The Professorship was established with leadership support by the Barness Family, the late Trina and Donald S. Cohan, Donna and Barry H. Feinberg, Penny Grossman Fox and the late Robert A. Fox, Joseph A. Frick, Constance B. and David F. Girard-diCarlo, Daniel J. Hilferty, Independence Blue Cross, Kenneth R. Jensen, Sarah Peachey Keating and Daniel J. Keating, III, Jill and Alan B. Miller, Martha and Peter C. Morse, Lyn and the late George M. Ross, Marcia and the late Ronald Rubin, the late Richard A. Sprague, Joanne T., and the late Raymond H. Welsh and Allen F. and the late Hanna Wise.

Robert H. VonderheideCurrent Chairholder
Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, is the Director of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania and the John H. Glick, MD, Abramson Cancer Center’s Director Professor in the Perelman School of Medicine. He is Vice Dean for Cancer Programs at PSOM and Vice President of Cancer Programs for the University of Pennsylvania Health System. He serves as Lead Physician for the Cancer Service Line of the Health System.

Dr. Vonderheide graduated from the University of Notre Dame (Chemical Engineering) and obtained his DPhil in immunology from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Massachusetts General and a fellowship in medical oncology at the Dana Farber. As an NIH-funded investigator at Penn Medicine, Dr. Vonderheide directs a research team focused on cancer immunology and immunotherapy. He has published more than 160 peer-reviewed manuscripts with senior author papers in high-impact journals such as Science, Nature, Cancer Cell, and the New England Journal of Medicine. He is well-known for deciphering the immune mechanisms of CD40 activation in cancer and directing clinical trials of novel immunotherapy.

Nationally, Dr. Vonderheide is a member of the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisers, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Board of Directors, and serves on the scientific advisory boards of seven NCI cancer centers. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (serving on the ASCI council from 2014-2017) and American Association of Physicians.

As Vice Dean and Vice President for Cancer Programs, Dr. Vonderheide is responsible for setting the vision for cancer care and research, securing funding and resources, facilitating team-based transdisciplinary research, and decision making on scientific policy, strategic directions, and investments. He oversees Abramson Cancer Center’s Research Programs and Shared Resources, and the Cancer Center’s systems for Clinical Protocol and Data Management, Community Outreach and Engagement, Cancer Education and Training, and Administration.

Previous Chairholders

  • Craig B. Thompson, MD 2009–2010
  • Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD 2011–2017