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Global palliative care leader to head Walther Supportive Oncology Program

An international leader in palliative care has been named the director of the new Walther Supportive Oncology Program at Indiana University School of Medicine. James (Jim) Cleary, MD, will join the faculty in July to lead the program and will hold the Walther Senior Chair in Supportive Oncology. He will also be a professor of medicine.

An Australian-trained medical oncologist and palliative care physician, Dr. Cleary, who has been in the United States for 24 years, is recognized globally for his expertise in palliative care medicine and cancer pain.

He is currently a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wisconsin. He also is a palliative care physician with the UW Health palliative care program, which he started in 1996. In 2011, he stepped down as medical director of the clinical program to commit more of his efforts to improving global palliative care. He has been director of the Pain and Policy Studies Group, a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Pain Policy & Palliative Care at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, for the past seven years.

Dr. Cleary has consistently been named to Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Doctors and America’s Top Doctors for Cancer guides, and he has been repeatedly named to Madison Magazine’s top doctors list. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, of which he was president in 2004, recently named Dr. Cleary in its second list of individuals who have made impactful contributions to the field of hospice and palliative medicine.

He earned his medical degree from the University of Adelaide in South Australia, and he completed his medical oncology fellowship (Fellow of the Australasian College of Physicians) at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He was a founding fellow of the Australasian Chapter of Palliative Medicine through his oncology training and laboratory work in opioid pharmacogenetics.

Dr. Cleary’s research has been extensively supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, Livestrong, the Open Society Institute and others.

“After my oncology fellowship, I spent three years of pharmacology research studying the pharmacogenetics of opioids,” Dr. Cleary said. “With my oncology training and the importance of cancer pain relief, I transitioned into palliative care. From there, my appreciation of good communication in cancer care has led to this being a further focus of my research.”

Dr. Cleary is attracted to IU Simon Cancer Center, in part, because of its international standing in the development of oncology, the quality of its leadership over the years and its commitment to global cancer care, evident by the development of AMPATH Oncology in Western Kenya.

IU School of Medicine recently received a $14 million gift from the Walther Cancer Foundation to create a supportive oncology program that goes beyond standard therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and seeks to care for a patient’s overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The program is named the Walther Supportive Oncology Program in recognition of the foundation’s generosity.