Nicholas Vogelzang, MD, stepped down as vice chair of SWOG’s genitourinary (GU) committee last fall, after more than 14 years in that role. I was distressed to learn a few weeks ago that he has entered hospice care because of health issues. GU committee chair Ian Thompson, MD, spoke to him earlier this week and said he sounded good. But he is under hospice care.

I realize the timing of this column may seem unusual to some. But, I simply could not respect Nick more, and I very much want him to know we will do everything in our power to honor his legacy.

Those who have worked with Nick, or perhaps who know him personally, understand that he is one of those one in a million people. He is always the smartest person in the room but doesn’t feel a need to inform you of that fact. He is warm, caring, professional, and knowledgeable to a fault. And he is an amazing physician and researcher.

I turned to Nick when a personal friend developed a cancer within his area of expertise. Though most of us are fairly willing to give advice, his thoroughness of follow-up on my friend’s case was a brilliant model for physicians everywhere. His response wasn’t just routine or what was expected – he truly wanted to help this patient he had never met and went out of his way to make sure the patient and family knew every possible option for care. Of course, he offered to see my friend the next day. That warmth and thoroughness have helped make him much loved among both patients and colleagues throughout the oncology community.

Dr. Thompson and several other SWOG GU oncology leaders visited Dr. Vogelzang recently. They reported he is home, with many family members around him, and that as they spoke he spent much of his time focused on his love for the work done by SWOG and the GU committee. He was particularly proud of the accomplishments of members who had joined the committee as young investigators and whose careers and research successes he had helped nurture over the years within that committee.

He also spoke of wanting to leave a legacy that would help provide those opportunities to future young investigators and would support continuing the committee’s advances in treating genitourinary cancers.

To honor his many contributions, and to foster the work he has devoted his professional life to, the GU committee leadership, working with The Hope Foundation, has launched two initiatives.

The first is the establishment of a Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD, Scholarship. This will support a young investigator – a resident, fellow, or junior faculty member – to travel to the SWOG group meeting. Each Vogelzang Scholar will be paired with a senior mentor to help them not only at the meeting but throughout their early career years. 

The second initiative is the Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD, GU Symposium.

At group meetings in recent years, the GU committee has held a Friday morning symposium dedicated to a range of specialty topics, sessions that have often led to major new trials. Starting with this fall’s group meeting, the committee is naming this Friday morning session to honor Dr. Vogelzang’s many valuable contributions in support of both colleagues and patients during his long career with SWOG. The event is intended to bring members the latest resources for extending and improving the lives of those affected by GU cancers.

The inaugural Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD, GU Symposium – scheduled for Friday, October 21, 9:30 – 11:30 am CT, at our group meeting in Chicago – will be devoted to the topic of organ preservation in bladder cancer.

The GU committee and The Hope Foundation have now established funds to support these two initiatives. You can contribute to the future success of the initiatives by contributing to these funds. To do so, visit the donation page on the Hope website, and include a comment on the form indicating your support is for the “Vogelzang Fund.”

Dr. Vogelzang has built an amazing legacy in oncology research and care, one that can be measured in lives transformed, among both his colleagues and his patients. That legacy deserves to be celebrated and sustained.

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