Alex Huang Named Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)

Alex Huang arms crossed wearing a tie

Dear Faculty, Students and Staff,

As we prepare to start the new academic year and welcome our new students, I want to share a leadership transition in the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

Last year, I asked Cliff Harding, MD, PhD, to return to his previous role as the director of the MSTP, a role he held for nearly 19 years from 2001 to 2019. In addition to overseeing the program, I asked him to achieve two specific goals—to ensure the successful submission of the competitive T32 renewal grant application that funds the program and to revise the current leadership structure to include a succession plan.

During Dr. Harding's first tenure as director, the program received four five-year renewals. With the award up for renewal in January, his expertise as the current director again proved to be crucial. The more than 1,000-page grant application was scored by the NIH Study Section in the exceptional range, and while we do not have confirmation that the grant will be funded, that score is very encouraging.

As the MSTP director, Dr. Harding worked with leaders to implement a new leadership structure, which reflects attention to gender balance, racial/ethnic diversity, more physician-scientists and greater representation of our clinical faculty members as well as having a student representative added to the MSTP Steering Committee.  

The impact of Dr. Harding's dedication and commitment to the program cannot be overstated. Graduates of our program are widely accomplished leaders in their fields across many disciplines, contributing to innovative patient care and research that translates into improving health. He is a valued leader and will continue to serve in many leadership positions, most importantly as the Joseph R. Kahn Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology in the School of Medicine.

As I mentioned over the course of the year, a succession plan in leadership was developed, and it was during that process that a new leader was identified. I reviewed the process with and received the advice of the MSTP Advisory Committee, the associate directors, institutional leaders and Dr. Harding.

I am pleased to announce their unanimous choice is associate director Alex Y. Huang, MD, PhD, who will serve as the next director of the MSTP starting July 3. Dr. Huang is an accomplished researcher, educator and clinician. Dr. Huang joined our faculty in 2006 as a professor of pediatrics and pathology. He is a graduate of the MSTP at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 

Dr. Huang and Heather Broihier, PhD will continue as Co-Multi-PIs of the MSTP T32 training grant. To support the program, Dr. Huang will continue to utilize the outstanding counsel of the Vice Dean for Graduate Education, Marvin Nieman, PhD and Vice Dean for Medical Education, Lia Logio, MD, and their extensive support staff of educators and researchers. Tony Wynshaw Boris, MD, PhD (also a graduate of our program) will continue as chair of the MSTP Advisory Committee. 

I asked Dr. Harding to share his thoughts on his tenure as director of the MSTP.

I will miss this role greatly, but after 20 years as director, it is time for me to focus on other areas. Dr. Alex Huang will be an outstanding MSTP director. Moreover, over the past year, we have developed a great team of associate directors (Heather Broihier, PhD, Agata Exner, PhD, Andrew Pieper, MD, PhD, David Wald, MD, PhD and Kim McBennett, MD, PhD) who will add vital contributions. We are also fortunate to have an incredible administrative team—administrative director Diane Dowd, PhD and our program staff, Crista Moeller and Katie Rockocy. With this leadership, the future of the CWRU MSTP is in great hands!

—Cliff Harding, MD, PhD

Dr. Huang is a noted translational investigator as a pediatric oncologist who trained in tumor immunology with Drew Pardoll, Elizabeth Jaffee and Hyam Levitsky at John Hopkins, then with Ron Germain at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He arrived here to pursue his independent career in adolescent and childhood malignancies and the development of novel immune therapeutics. As the holder of the Theresia G. and Stuart F. Kline Family Foundation Chair in Pediatric Oncology, he has published more than 100 peer reviewed manuscripts, developed first-in-human clinical protocols, and has been exceptionally sought after as a mentor and trainer across multiple SOM research training programs. He has served as director of the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Program at University Hospitals  Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital since 2007 and is the co-leader of the Immune Oncology Program for the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. He served on the immunotherapy section of the Biden Cancer Moonshot Advisory Group in 2016–17, as well as numerous NIH, international and childhood cancer foundation study sections. In recognition of his dedication to teaching and mentoring, he has received the 2011 Clinical Fellows' Teaching Award 2010–11, the prestigious 2017 John S. Diekhoff Award for Distinguished Graduate Teaching and Mentoring, Case Western Reserve University School of Graduate Studies; and the 2018 PREP Mentor of the Year Award. And, I note he also received the 2016 Inaugural School of Medicine Faculty Diversity Award. 

Dr. Huang will build upon the program's strong foundation as the first MD-PhD program in the country, which includes two Nobel Laureates, a U.S. Surgeon General and many other notable leaders.

​​​​​​I asked Dr. Huang to share his thoughts on his appointment as director of the MSTP.

I am indebted to Dr. Harding's leadership and dedication in leaving a strong foundation for the future growth of MSTP. At CWRU, we have exceptional students, outstanding and dedicated mentors and advisors, and supportive institutional leadership, making our MSTP an exceptional program. I am humbled and honored to shepherd the development of future physician-scientist leaders who will impact biomedical discovery and healthcare delivery during this exciting time in the history of medicine.

—Alex Y. Huang, MD, PhD

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Huang on his new role as director and thanking Dr. Harding for his unwavering support of the program.

Thank you,

Stan Gerson, MD

Dean and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs

School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University