William Evans, the former CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, visited UT on Wednesday to discuss his career and the future of cancer research.
Evans presented his hourlong talk, hosted by the Health Science Scholars program, to more than 70 students in the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Building, Avaya Auditorium and spent an additional hour holding a more intimate Q&A session with several prehealth students.
St. Jude was created in 1962 to combat catastrophic diseases and places a special focus on researching and treating cancer in children, Evans said. As CEO from 2004 to 2014, Evans developed infrastructure for the hospital while also advancing research technologies and techniques.
“Our culture is one of compassion, of collaboration, of innovation and of excellence,” Evans said. “The most important part of our mission was our patients — these brave kids who agreed to go on clinical trials without anyone knowing what would happen.”
Evans, who served in a variety of roles at St. Jude for more than forty years, now runs a lab in the hospital dedicated to developing a treatment for childhood leukemia. He described the hospital’s strategy as equal commitment to research and treatment.
“I lost money every year that I was CEO, and I was proud of the fact because that meant we were treating more people and therefore accomplishing our goal,” Evans said.
The hospital is based in Memphis, Tennessee and has tripled in size since its inception, reporting an annual operating budget of more than $1 billion. St. Jude is unique in that treatment is completely free, a perk the hospital can provide by collecting 70% of their revenue from donations.
Jarrett Rong, biology junior and president of the Health Science Scholars student council, helped organize Evans’ visit.
“I heard him speak two years ago, and I was very impressed by his attitude and style of speaking,” Rong said of Evans. “We worked to bring him here because I think he has some solid advice to share with students about mentorship, networking and learning.”
Neuroscience junior Meghana Gogineni attended the event and said she found the talk informative and entertaining.
“I thought he was a great speaker because he talked about the research he did, but he also emphasized the importance of mentorship,” Gogineni said. “As an aspiring health professional, I appreciated being able to learn from someone so prominent in the field.”