Iris and Matthew Strauss. Photo: UCSD

Two longtime supporters of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego donated $2 million to establish an endowed chair for the center’s head and neck surgery division, the university announced Tuesday.

The Iris and Matthew Strauss Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Head and Neck Surgery will “support excellence in research, education and clinical care,” according to a UCSD statement.

Matthew Strauss said he and his wife “believe in the missions of UC San Diego and UC San Diego Health and their commitment to the community, groundbreaking research and health care.”

“UC San Diego Health is at the forefront of transformative health care innovation and practice, and we want to ensure that it is able to attract and retain world-class experts and provide the resources needed for it to continue to change the landscape of clinical care well into the future,” he said.

Dr. Joseph A. Califano III, a professor in the Department of Surgery at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, was named the inaugural chair holder.

An endowed chair is one of the highest honors that an academic institution can confer upon a faculty member, recognizing excellence in his or her research and clinical practice.

Califano called the Strausses as “invaluable partners in our pursuit of better care for people who need head and neck surgery, part of treatment for some head and neck cancers.”

“This gift will allow us to continue transforming the way we understand, and treat head and neck cancers, through surgical interventions and I am eager to see what kinds of discoveries we make thanks to the Strauss family’s partnership,” he said.

As of the Head and Neck Cancer Center director and physician-in-chief at Moores Cancer Center, Califano has taken multiple discoveries from laboratory to clinic, including an early detection method for human papillomavirus-related and head and neck cancers. He also serves as principal investigator for clinical trials that explore early detection of head and neck cancers, along with recurrence.

This year, head and neck cancer research at Moores Cancer Center received $14 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, and $40 million in future committed funding from foundations and private philanthropy.

In 2018, Iris and Matthew Strauss gave $1 million to help launch a personalized cancer vaccine clinical trial, in hopes that a breakthrough treatment could help patients like their daughter, Tamara, beat their disease.

Previously, the Strauss family lost a daughter to ovarian cancer. The couple also sit on the UC San Diego Health Board of Advisors, Moores Cancer Center Board of Visitors and UC San Diego Campaign Cabinet.

The Head and Neck Cancer Center has more than 90 staff dedicated to head and neck cancer treatment and research. Center staff cared for more than 13,000 patients in 2020, nearly double the amount of five years earlier.

–City News Service

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