Dr. Stephen D. Nimer, director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, which recently received a prestigious designation from the National Cancer Institute, has been named the inaugural holder of the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.
University of Miami president Julio Frenk made the announcement during a recent event at the Kislak Center in the Otto G. Richter Library, noting the generosity of the legendary fashion designer and his family, especially his widow, Annette de la Renta.
“This chair provides a tremendous legacy to not only Mr. de la Renta, but also the potential to transform research and cancer care worldwide,” Frenk said. “We are incredibly appreciative of the foresight and vision of the de la Renta family. Today is an extraordinary day for the entire University community, and especially Dr. Stephen D. Nimer.”
Mrs. de la Renta noted, “Tonight is all about Dr. Stephen Nimer. He’s a wonderfully compassionate man, and the university is very lucky to have him here in Miami.”
Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said the endowed chair provides the university the honor of having its name associated with one of the most respected leaders in the design and fashion industry.
“This is just another great indication of the incredible work happening at Sylvester in the fight against cancer,” Duerk said. “The ingenuity and creativity necessary to fight cancer, and the de la Renta chair name, is both symbolic and reflective of Dr. Nimer’s approach to leading our cancer center.”
Humbled to be chosen as the inaugural chair, particularly given his close friendship with de la Renta, Dr. Nimer paid tribute to the late fashion legend who “rapidly ascended to the top of the haute fashion world, where he stayed for decades — 50 years according to my calculation.” said Dr. Nimer, professor of medicine, biochemistry, and molecular biology.
“Oscar’s career is a source of inspiration for me and through his vision and generosity we will be able to fund more lifesaving research,” Dr. Nimer added. “I look forward to many more productive years of research, mentoring, leadership, and caring for patients.”
A world-renowned clinician and expert in treating leukemia and lymphoma, Dr. Nimer led Sylvester’s efforts to earn the prestigious National Cancer Institute designation in July, making it one of only two NCI-designated cancer centers in Florida, and one of just 71 across the nation.
Throughout his career Dr. Nimer has conducted extensive clinical and basic science research to improve the treatment of blood-based cancers. The author of more than 300 scientific publications, he has received numerous awards for his research, including the E. Donnall Thomas Award in 2015 from the Bone Marrow Foundation. He has been elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigators, the Association of American Physicians, is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, and serves on several medical journal editorial boards. He also chairs the Myelodysplastic Syndrome Foundation and the medical advisory board of Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research.
“An endowed chair is one of the highest academic honors for a faculty member and a tribute to their achievements,” said Dr. Henri R. Ford, dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School of Medicine. “It instills our sincere and utmost confidence that this individual is going to continue on a path of excellence.”
Dr. Edward Abraham, executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth, said this endowed chair was “fitting, given from one visionary to another. Dr. Nimer has distinguished himself in the cancer field and no doubt will continue to do so. We are so pleased with this recognition of his work, which ultimately benefits our patients.”
Oscar de la Renta, one of the world’s leading fashion designers, was a longtime supporter of Dr. Nimer’s work, first at Sloan Kettering and then later at Sylvester. In fact, before his death in 2014, de la Renta lent his expertise and time to help organize Sylvester’s “Design for a Cure” fashion show in South Florida, which raised more than $1 million.
A true visionary and philanthropist, de la Renta made exceptional contributions in the fashion world and beyond. Leaving his native Dominican Republic at age 18, he used his passion for design and dedicated work in the industry to cement his legacy as a global leader in women’s fashion. He served twice as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and received several awards, including its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, de la Renta became the first fashion designer to be honored by the United States Postal Service with a series of “Forever” stamps.
A tireless patron of the arts, de la Renta served on several boards, including those of Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera Guild. He was a dual citizen of the United States and the Dominican Republic, where he served as ambassador at large.
“We intend to honor Oscar’s gift by ensuring that it is used to propel innovative research that impacts more lives,” Dr. Nimer said.