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Back on board

The prospect of contributing to a cure for certain forms of cancers was enough to entice William Dalton to return from a dream job in his home state after less than a year away from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute.

Dalton, who was announced as the new CEO for Moffitt on July 9, said the ultimate goal for Moffitt was to be recognized as having made a substantial contribution to the development of cancer remedies.

“There are many forms of cancer, and we’re working at the forefront of some of those,” Dalton said. “I would like Moffitt recognized as the institution that made major contributions to the cure of those cancers.”

A renowned physician-researcher in his own right, Dalton said the immediate objectives for Moffitt were the continued development of its research facilities in tandem with improvements in cancer care.

“(The aims) are continued growth and recognition for what were doing, contributing to the cure of cancer,” said Dalton “While we emphasize the research aspect of what we do we will never forget why we are there. We always keep in mind that we’re here for the patients.”

Moffitt’s partnership with USF, said Dalton, has the potential to transform the local economy.

“We can contribute even more to the community by working with the University of South Florida to establish a knowledge-based economy,” he said. “The partnership with USF is very important to Moffitt.”

Dalton was deputy director of Moffitt when he left at the end of last year to become dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. Dalton’s initial three-year contract as CEO is effective from Aug. 1. He takes up the reins from John Ruckdeschel, whose contract was not renewed following reports of a falling out with the Moffitt board of directors. Dalton said the offer to be CEO was something he just had to accept.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. Moffitt is probably one of the top three fastest growing cancer centers in the U.S.,” Dalton said. “The opportunity to lead a first-rank cancer center, which is what the Moffitt is. I couldn’t pass it up.”

Moffitt is still basking in the recognition of its recent ranking by U.S. News and World Report as the 10th best cancer hospital in the United States, rising up from 22nd place in 2001. For Dalton, the ranking serves as a signpost of the progress Moffitt is making.

“It’s important in the sense that we want to be recognized for our accomplishment,” he said. “Our peers recognize what is happening at Moffitt.”

The importance of Moffitt to Florida, said Dalton, is emphasized by the state’s high incidence of cancer. Florida currently has the second highest number of deaths from cancer in the country. The existence of Moffitt, said Dalton, means that patients can receive care within their own state.

Dalton said he had no qualms about following in Ruckdeschel’s footsteps.

“He’s done a tremendous job, and it’s a privilege to follow him,” Dalton said. “But no institution is just one man. Everybody contributes to make Moffitt what it is. The strength in Moffitt is in its people.”