Sep 19, 2023

Dr. Joann Sweasy, expert in DNA repair, named cancer center director

Posted Sep 19, 2023 2:00 PM
Joann Sweasy PHD/Photo provided by UNMC
Joann Sweasy PHD/Photo provided by UNMC


Joann B. Sweasy, PhD, an internationally recognized comprehensive cancer center director and an expert in the genetics, cell biology and biochemistry of DNA repair, has been named the next director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, announced Tuesday.

A National Institutes of Health-funded researcher since 1994, Dr. Sweasy currently is the director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson. As UACC director, she led the center to renewal of its National Cancer Institute-Comprehensive designation in 2022.

Dr. Sweasy will begin in her new roles on Nov. 1. She will replace Ken Cowan, MD, PhD, who has led the cancer center since 1999.

“I could not be more thrilled to have a leader such as Dr. Sweasy with all of her experience and dedication to lead the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and the Eppley Institute,” Dr. Gold said. “Her experience in leading an NCI comprehensive cancer center, her years of service on various NCI committees and other national review boards, and her highly recognized research acumen make her an ideal candidate to accelerate our momentum as a highly recognized world-class NCI cancer center.

“Dr. Cowan has led the cancer center through unprecedented growth over the past two decades. We are poised for even greater heights, and we all look forward to working with Dr. Sweasy to lead us forward.”

James Linder, MD, CEO of Nebraska Medicine, said: "Dr. Sweasy has a world-class reputation in cancer research and building teams to deliver patient care. I could not be more delighted to have her join the cancer leadership team at Nebraska Medicine."

Dr. Sweasy serves as a member of the NCI-subcommittee A, the panel that reviews all NCI cancer centers, and is vice president/president-elect of the American Association of Cancer Institutes.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected to direct the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer, which are recognized for exceptional cancer care and research,” Dr. Sweasy said. “I look forward to interacting with communities across the state of Nebraska and beyond to increase the impact of our cancer research and improve access to cancer care and prevention.”

Dr. Sweasy’s research has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health since 1994 for her research on the genetics, cell biology and biochemistry of DNA repair and the roles of aberrant DNA repair in cancer and autoimmunity. For this work, she was awarded the 2016 Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society Award as well as many other national awards and recognitions.

Dr. Sweasy earned her bachelor’s degree from Arcadia University and her doctoral degree from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Dr. Sweasy was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington. She then was appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology at the Yale University School of Medicine, eventually earning tenure and serving as vice chair of the department and the Ensign Professor of Therapeutic Radiology. Dr. Sweasy joined the University of Arizona Cancer Center as director in 2019.

In addition to thanking Dr. Cowan for his remarkable leadership over the past two decades, Dr. Gold expressed his appreciation to the search committee, chaired by Ann Anderson Berry, MD, PhD, director of the Child Health Research Institute, and Chris Kratochvil, MD, interim vice chancellor for external relations, for their work in vetting and bringing forward highly qualified candidates.