Definitely Not Retirement, Says Varmus

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first_imgHarold Varmus announced this morning that he’ll soon be leaving his job as president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Later in the day, he spoke to Science and said the move shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been “reading the tea leaves.” From the start, he was clear that he’d keep the job for 10 years, and the end of that decade has come. “This is definitely not retirement,” he says. Here are some excerpts from the conversation, edited for brevity:Q: What are some of the highlights from your years heading up Sloan-Kettering?  What are you most proud of?H.V.: This is not a time for valedictories—I don’t want people to start summing it up and saying what we’ve done. When I’m actually leaving as president, then that might be a good time to sum it up. Thematically, what I’ve been trying to do is what everyone else is trying to do: bring the clinical and research enterprises together; recruiting great people; raising a lot of money that allows us to build new programs. We’ve [been] slowed down by the economic crunch. [But] we’ve hired a lot of great people—this place has been transformed as an institution that does cancer research across the board.Q: What’s the value of big cancer centers like Sloan-Kettering these days?Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)H.V.: There’s good reason to have places that have a strong research component and a very big patient-care responsibility, especially now. I’ve been in this business, I hate to say it, about 40 years. In the beginning, when I was working on chicken retroviruses, the connection between the clinic and what I did was zero. Now everything we do feels clinically relevant. I’ve tried to build our research across the board, but especially where basic research meets the patient.Q: Do you think cancer genomics, your research area, is moving slowly?H.V.: The institution was doing no genomics when I got here—now we have a computational biology program, an informatics core, at least three genome cores. These tests are improving the way we take care of cancer patients—I think it’s starting to happen.Q: What are you planning next?H.V.: I’m co-chair of PCAST [President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology], I’m the chair of the Public Library of Science, I chair an advisory committee for the Gates Foundation, and I have an active lab which I try to pay attention to. I’m a busy guy without the presidency. I’m perfectly happy [with what I’m doing]. But life is hard to predict. Nobody thinks I’m sick or old, so that’s good news. I’ve done this job long enough, and now someone else should do it.last_img

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