The National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities recently celebrated its 21st anniversary by honoring some of its most accomplished scholars and Dr. Miguel A. Villalona-Calero is one of them.
Villalona-Calero, professor at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, has been named a Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) Lifetime Achievement Honoree. He was cited as a leader in the field who has made significant contributions to cancer research and workforce diversity.
The honor has a special meaning to Villalona-Calero. “The CURE program is of extreme value as it creates opportunities for those who have the drive and are willing to put the required effort,“ Villalona-Calero says. “I was myself a recipient of a minority grant supplement in 1995, which helped jumpstart my academic career when I was finishing training.”
Since winning an NCI Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award to Promote Diversity in 1995, Villalona-Calero has participated in 20 federal grants, 11 as principal investigator focused primarily on translating laboratory science to clinical trials in cancer patients. He is internationally recognized for his work in lung cancer, particularly in the area of developmental therapeutics, designing new and more effective drugs.
Villalona-Calero is also deputy director and chief scientific officer at Baptist Health’s Miami Cancer Institute, and his lab at FIU is working to develop several inter-institutional programs that will support the establishment and expansion of a basic and translational research program encompassing both institutions.
Part of his continuing mission is fostering the creation of the next generation of minority scientists, and he is heartened that programs like CURE now offer some of the opportunities that helped paved the way for his success, even at the middle school level.
Quoting from Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar, he encourages young students not to pass up any chances that come their way. “‘There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’ We should follow our hearts, go for these opportunities and never, never be afraid,” he says.