Dr. Eugene Hwang to receive Rare Cancers research grant at 2019 Young Investigator Draft presented by CSL Behring

The Young Investigator Draft is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.

These Young Investigators will pursue rare disease research in one of five different areas: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.

To learn more about the Young Investigator Draft and to purchase tickets click here.

Researcher: Dr. Eugene Hwang

Category: Rare Cancers

Education: Dr. Hwang started his education with an undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology from Rice University. He went to medical school at Duke University where he obtained his MD. Dr. Hwang did his residency in pediatrics at Brown University’s Hasbro Children’s Hospital, returned to Duke University for his fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology and was the Chief Fellow his final year. Dr. Hwang’s final post-graduate training was also at Duke University in pediatric neuro-oncology. He is currently a pediatric neuro-oncologist at the Children’s National Medical Center and cares for children with brain tumors.

Research: In Dr. Wang’s words this is his focus when it comes to research “I’m a clinical/researcher and I’m thinking and designing on the translational side for that make sense to me and what the FDA and governing bodies will allow. We open research to single hospitals or groups of hospitals. The hospital I’m at now has become a leader for pediatric brain cancer. Through that vain we are able to propose and run through the same consortium. There’s always a lot of rationale to choose the drugs we are going to test. Pediatric brain cancer funding is limited, so these are all clinical trails. There are a lot of collaborations, but in many ways it what we are trying to accomplish to find what helps to make a difference with children. I need to know cutting edge to know what is going on with science and with the treatment of patients. Sometimes it’s hard to get researchers and doctors together to make it meaningful to everyone. I can dialogue with both sides of the equation and it’s proven helpful.”

During his third year of medical school, Dr. Hwang was drawn to children and he knew his future would include pediatric medicine. He had discovered his passion and purpose.

Science and medicine wasn’t necessarily his first love. For Dr. Hwang, who grew up in Texas and is the father of two daughters, it was a process.

His first love was literature and for the first half of college he was fairly certain he was going to be a writer. And even today he says that would have been a fulfilling career.

Science was always something that came easy for Dr. Hwang growing up, but it was a process for him to let go of his first love – literature and writing – and commit to a career path of making a difference in the lives of others.

“There’s something special about when a child is sick as compared to an adult. There’s something moving about a family coming around a sick child. The intense emotional energy around a kid who is sick moves me,” said Dr. Hwang, who added he chose to focus on the brain because it remains such a mystery and has always been the most intriguing. “I love that fight that mobilizes immediately when it’s your child or a loved ones child. It was just an easy step to brain cancer for me because I was already drawn to the brain. The survival for pediatric brain cancer is still not great, so the way I see it there are the biggest gains to be made going forward.”

A big fan of the outdoors, including being “great at fly fishing”, Dr. Hwang is also a huge fan of Duke University basketball. Did he paint himself in blue and white and attend Blue Devils games as a Cameron Crazy during his five years at Duke? Of course was his answer.

Dr. Hwang also enjoys photography old-school style, including the magic that comes when working in a darkroom.

But making a difference by helping children with brain tumors is what has made Dr. Hwang one of the very best in his field.

In an article published online by connectionasco.org last November entitled “I Live to Conquer Cancer,” Dr. Hwang laid out what motivates him today as a clinician/researcher.

“I have attended end-of-treatment parties where I finally see the true breadth of the threads that tie all of us together; I have spoken at standing room-only funerals where sorrow and remembrance permeate because of the loss of a child, decades too early,” he wrote. And, at every step of the way, I am continually reminded of why I cannot stop working in this field.

“I am honored and grateful that I have the chance to meet these tiny (and not-so-tiny) warriors, that each family pulls me into the inner sanctum of their loved ones, and that in some small way, I can provide hope for every child.”

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