Dr. Michael Rodriguez Memorial Award
Dr. Colleen Morrison
Less than 10 years ago, the Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI) started a bold new project; to build a tumor biobank to collect specimens from patients receiving their care in the community hospital setting. Outside of large academic cancer centers, this concept was new and the progress we have made would not have been possible unless people rallied to this cause. One of the first people to do so in our community was Dr. Michael Rodriguez, a gynecologic oncologist at Michiana Hematology Oncology. Dr. Rodriguez was an essential part of our tissue bank coming into existence by championing our cause with both cancer patients and clinical colleagues. Every year, we are honored to recognize a local physician who continues the work he started with the Dr. Michael Rodriguez Memorial Award. Previously this award has been bestowed upon Dr. William Kaliney (South Bend Medical Foundation), Dr. Bobbie Sutton (South Bend Medical Foundation), and Dr. George Friend (General Vascular Surgery).
This year, it is our pleasure to honor the effort and commitment of Dr. Colleen Morrison, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Beacon Medical Group. Dr. Morrison is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College and the Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine. She then completed her fellowship in Pediatric Hematology Oncology Stem Cell Transplantation at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Throughout her career, Dr. Morrison has been dedicated to confronting cancer outcome disparities. These disparities have always existed, but are of increasing concern with the growing knowledge that people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds may have distinct genetic abnormalities that drive their cancer incidence and outcomes. One particularly tragic disparity is the low survival rate for pediatric leukemia in Hispanic children relative to Caucasian children. As medicine becomes more personalized, access to tumor samples from underrepresented minorities and research into these cancer outcome disparities becomes critical. With Dr. Morrison’s assistance, researchers at the HCRI have forged collaborations with clinicians and researchers in Mexico to gather and compare patient samples. The goal of this ongoing research, to create an early diagnostic for pediatric leukemia, has the potential to improve the lives of children around the world. Progress on this project simply would not be possible without the dedication of Dr. Morrison and her research team. We are honored to name Dr. Colleen Morrison as the 2021 recipient of the Dr. Michael Rodriguez Memorial Award.