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Karlan Honored With Pioneer in Medicine Award

"She's never once stopped giving me hope," an ovarian cancer patient said of Beth Y. Karlan, MD.

Patients call Beth Y. Karlan, MD, a brilliant and compassionate physician. Scientists call her an innovative researcher for her discoveries in the inherited risk, early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. Students call her an inspiring mentor.

Now, Karlan, director of the Women's Cancer Program in the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute and the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, can add one more accolade to her considerable list of achievements: recipient of the prestigious 2017 Pioneer in Medicine award, which recognizes the clinical and research contributions of a Cedars-Sinai medical staff member.

"Through the Women's Cancer Program, Dr. Karlan has helped establish Cedars-Sinai as one of the preeminent cancer centers in the world," said Ilana Cass, MD, who nominated Karlan for the award and presented it at the annual meeting of the medical staff on Oct. 17.

"Her passion for science and clinical care and her dedication to her family drew me to Cedars-Sinai," added Cass, vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "Beth welcomes anyone who's willing to do hard work and be good at what they do. She'll always advocate for that person."

Mark J. Ault, MD, was honored with the Chief of Staff award.

At the same ceremony, Mark J. Ault, MD, was honored with the Chief of Staff award in recognition of his support, mentorship and dedication to maintaining safe, quality patient care at Cedars-Sinai.

An innovator in procedural medicine, Ault founded the Cedars-Sinai Procedure Center, where faculty members perform thousands of medical procedures annually, including dialysis access, lumbar punctures and skin biopsies.

Two days before the Cedars-Sinai ceremony, Karlan, the Board of Governors Endowed Chair in Gynecologic Oncology and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in health and medicine. The academy is a branch of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the top U.S. source of expert advice on science, engineering and health.

She was joined in Washington, D.C., by fellow inductee Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, chief nursing executive, vice president for Nursing and chief nursing officer. Burnes Bolton is recognized as one of the nation's most visible and respected figures in the nursing profession.

Karlan, director of the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program, joined the Cedars-Sinai staff in 1989. She is senior author on 60 of the more than 300 peer-reviewed publications to which she's contributed. She has been awarded more than $20 million in research grants, fellowships and funding for therapeutic trials from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the American Cancer Society.

"Dr. Karlan's attitude is that of a pioneer," said Steven Piantadosi, MD, PhD, director of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. "She is willing to deal with adversity and to enter into territory that other individuals have shied away from, scientifically and in a leadership role."

Karlan's patients simply think of her as a partner in their cancer care.

"The day I walked into Dr. Karlan's office, she said, 'Put your warrior woman pants on and get into the battle,'" said Dana Baratta, an ovarian cancer patient.

"'I'm going to be there with you, shoulder to shoulder for the entire journey,'" Baratta added. "That was five years ago. She's never once stopped giving me hope."

At the end of the day, Karlan says, that's what her job is all about.

"I consider being a physician a great privilege," Karlan said. "I try to understand how the cancer affects and impacts the rest of my patients' lives, never forgetting that they're also a mother, daughter, a wife."