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UCCCC Presents New Honored Lectureship in Molecular and Cellular Oncology
Two long-time UChicago physicians will be memorialized through a new endowed lectureship.
The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) will present the first Dr. Melvin L. and Dr. Sylvia F. Griem Lecture in Molecular and Cellular Oncology later this year. The lectureship will bring leaders in the expanding field of molecular and cellular oncology to the University of Chicago campus to share their insights with students, faculty, and colleagues.

The lectureship is named in honor of radiation therapy pioneer Melvin L. Griem, MD, MS, and his wife, dermatologist Sylvia F. Griem, MD, both of whom were faculty at the University for their entire careers and had a lasting impact on countless medical students, colleagues, and their respective specialties.

The Griems met while students at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and following internship were recruited to the University of Chicago in 1954 for residency. Sylvia served as a faculty in Dermatology for over 30 years, and in 1981 served as president of the Chicago Dermatological Society.  One of a small number of women in medicine in her early career, Sylvia took pride in showing her residents that a successful medical career could be balanced with a happy family life.

Dr. Melvin Griem helped to establish radiation oncology as its own medical specialty, separate from the field of diagnostic radiology. He was among the first researchers in the 1950s to study the combination of drugs and hormones with radiation therapy. In the 1960s, he conducted clinical trials in interstitial radiation therapy, where radioactive material is encapsulated in needles or seeds that are placed directly into the tumor. He capitalized on his background in electrical engineering and physics and in the 1970s helped launch the neutron therapy unit for cancer treatment at UChicago, the first such unit based in a hospital. Later, Dr. Griem studied the long-term consequences of radiation exposure in a therapeutic setting. 

“Melvin Griem was a true visionary,” said UCCCC Director Michelle M. Le Beau, PhD, Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine. “His intense interest in technology, combined with his unbridled enthusiasm and vast imagination, allowed him to develop novel approaches to treating cancer.”

The Griems remained in the Chicago area after retirement and recently passed away, Sylvia in 2010  and Melvin in 2011.

They had three children, including Katherine Griem, MD, a radiation oncologist, Melanie Griem, MD, a dermatologist, and Robert Griem, all of whom are alumni of the UChicago Laboratory Schools.

Dr. Katherine Griem and her husband, Anthony G. Montag, MD, professor of pathology at the University of Chicago and associate dean for admissions at the Pritzker School of Medicine, endowed the lectureship.

“Katherine and Tony have created a very special way to honor the tremendous contributions that Melvin and Sylvia Griem have made to The University of Chicago Medical Center community,” said Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, executive vice president for medical affairs, dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine, and Richard T. Crane Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine. “New ideas and potential collaborations will undoubtedly surface during these programs, which will ultimately help us understand more about the molecular mechanisms involved in cancer so that we can design more effective, personalized cancer treatments.”

The date for the first lecture has not been finalized.