​Remembrances of Waun Ki Hong

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Read the eulogies for Dr. Hong delivered by AACR CEO Margaret Foti and AACR member Ronald A. DePinho.

“On behalf of my mother Mi Hwa, Burt, and me, I would like to extend our tremendous gratitude to the AACR and its membership. All of the wonderful words and testimonies about Dad has helped our family come closer in having peace and accepting that he is no longer with us physically. It warms our heart to see so many researchers become even more motivated to continue Dad's legacy for years and years to come. AACR was a large part of Dad's life because it meant so much to him. Among all the awards and recognition that Dad received, The AACR Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research in his honor is his greatest recognition.” 

Ed Hong    

“The American Association for Cancer Research is deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Waun Ki Hong. His seminal research catalyzed several breakthroughs in cancer medicine and cancer prevention that improved treatment and survival for many patients, and it will leave a lasting legacy. Dr. Hong’s dedication to mentoring clinical and postdoctoral fellows, his visionary leadership in cancer research at the national and international level, and his exceptional dedication to the AACR made him a true champion of the field. He was my dear friend, and in his memory and honor, we will work even harder to realize the goal of saving more lives from cancer.”

Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer
American Association for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“I am shocked and saddened by the loss of Dr. Hong. Ki was a mentor and friend. I never asked him for mentorship; he offered it so willingly to everyone. He was also an amazing researcher and leader. He cared about patients, but also about the next generation of cancer fighters. We have lost a giant in cancer research today. He will be missed by our entire community.”

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR, 2018-2019 AACR President
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Maryland

“Ki was a very special person who dedicated every minute of his life to fighting cancer in many different ways (research, clinical, and education). He was very focused and extremely successful. I first met Ki when he joined the Scientific Advisory Board for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) in the early 1990s. At that time I served as the Associate Director of Cancer Prevention for the VICC in Nashville. Immediately, Ki wanted to know what my strategic plan was for the prevention effort and how we proposed to prevent cancers in the Middle Tennessee region. He provided crucial advice to me on how to set up a world-class program, what kind of faculty to recruit, and how to best organize our prevention efforts. He followed up with phone calls and strong encouragement on a regular basis. He mentored me and became a life-long friend and supporter. His loss will have a global impact, and his career provides an example for all of us to strive for.”

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD, FAACR, 2008-2009 AACR President
Chairman and President, AACR Foundation
The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina

“I had the great honor of working closely with Ki while he served as AACR President-Elect during my term as President. The indelible impression he made was that, despite his numerous accomplishments and responsibilities, he maintained the most positive, upbeat, and energetic demeaner. His greetings were always warm and heartfelt, and he saw the upside of any situation. Ki was the embodiment of the aphorism 'his glass was always half-full.' His passion for teaching the next generation and selflessly promoting the careers of others made him very unique. Every time I think of Ki, I am reminded of how his happy smile lit up the room.”

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Tom Curran, PhD, FAACR, 2000-2001 AACR President
Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri

“This is heartbreaking news. Ki was such a dedicated and wonderful human being, a paragon of excellence, integrity, and human kindness. He will be deeply missed.”

Levi A. Garraway, MD, PhD, AACR Board Member
Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, Indiana

“This news is really shocking and sad; my deepest condolences to Ki's family and loved ones. He was a giant in the cancer field but yet so personable and kind to each one of us who has learned so much from his wisdom and experience. He will be missed deeply.”

Lillian L. Siu, MD, AACR Board Member
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“This is very sad news. I worked with Ki for over 20 years, and he was a great friend and mentor. Indeed, he left behind a legacy of many he supported and mentored as well as important awards for mentoring and team science, two of his passions.”

Gordon Mills, MD, PhD, AACR Board Member
Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute, Portland, Oregon

“It is so hard to realize that I will never again be able to exchange ideas with you… I always learned so much during these exchanges because what did characterize them was you incredible wisdom, your deep respect for dynamic colleagues and for the young generation of researchers.

“I will never forget your visit to Brussels, your marvelous talk on chemoprevention and this wonderful tennis math we played together : this is where I could see your determination to be a “winner”… but without ever harming your partners. I will miss you terribly.”

Martine Piccart, MD, PhD
Professor of Oncology, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Director of Medicine, Jules Bordet Institute, Brussels, Belgium

“It is really sad to hear that my friend Dr. Waun Ki Hong has passed away. He and I have met at almost every AACR Annual Meeting since the mid-1970s. Since his older brother and I lived in Buffalo, I had a personal acquaintance wih him. I met him twice last year in Seoul, Korea: once in May when he came to organize the AACR-KCA Joint Meeting and the other in November when he gave the Plenary lecture at the meeting. I am glad he contributed to the first successful Joint Meeting. My sincere condolences to his family. Praying for his peaceful rest in heaven.”

Chung I. Hong, PhD, AACR Member
Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceuticals Corp, Wheeling, Illinois

“I first met Waun Ki Hong in the early 1990s and interacted with him at many conferences over the ensuing years. Although Ki was not a molecular biologist, he was always eager to discuss the molecular basis of cancer and had a knack for recognizing critical discoveries at the molecular level that could have an impact on cancer treatment. He was always highly supportive and encouraging of my own lab’s work, and it was exciting and energizing for me to discuss our data with someone with such deep knowledge and experience in cancer medicine. He was an extraordinary physician and scientist with immense integrity. He will be greatly missed.

Robert N. Eisenman, PhD, FAACR, AACR Member
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington

“Waun Ki Hong is definitely one of the greats! He leaves a big hole in our ranks. Ki, you will be greatly missed.

John D. Potter, PhD, AACR Member
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington

“My condolences to his family. Ki was a wonderful scientist and human being.”

David Beer, PhD, AACR Member
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Professor Waun Ki Hong’s passing, and I would like to express my sincere condolences to the bereaved family on behalf of CKD Pharmaceutical Corporation. As I vividly remember meeting him and Mrs. Hong for over dinner at the Plaza Hotel on May 19, 2018, I cannot believe that Professor Hong is no longer with us. Many people remember how Professor Hong saved many precious lives through his anticancer drug research and contributions to the development of science. Not only did his monumental research present a new direction in cancer treatments, but he also made great contributions to the training of the next generation of doctors and researchers. Professor Hong set a great example for the scientific community. In recognition of Professor Hong’s achievements, CKD promises that we will dedicate our utmost efforts to help every cancer patient with our drug discovery works.”

Jang Han Rhee, Chairman
Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceuticals Corp

“The world has lost a uniquely special scientist, physician, mentor, and humanitarian with the passing of Waun Ki Hong. I had the privilege of knowing him for several decades, and partnering with him on three editions of our textbook Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Ki brought passion and joy to everything he tried to do, and enriched all around him with his infectious curiosity. He made us better by simply being himself. His love of baseball was particularly special, and we would duel over his Red Sox and my Mets with great affection. His ideas, from larynx preservation to chemoprevention, were always a step ahead of his time.
Thank you, Ki, for all you have done to help so many of us achieve our dreams.”

Louis B. Harrison, MD
Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute

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“The Korean Society of Medical Oncology (KSMO) is deeply saddened by the loss of Professor Waun Ki Hong. I can hardly believe he has passed away. I can still picture his smile and feel like he will be there with us. He was our beloved mentor, dear friend, and innovator who led the MD Anderson Cancer Center as head of the Division of Cancer Medicine for 30 years from 1984 to 2014. He was also a trailblazing physician-scientist who opened a new era in the translational cancer research by setting a new pathway of approaching patients as a “team.” He served as the President of the AACR which is a great privilege to Korean oncology researchers and scientists. His extraordinary contributions to cancer research, prevention, and oncology science will leave a long lasting legacy. Rest in peace professor; we will greatly miss you.”

Tae-You Kim, MD, PhD, AACR Member
Chairman, Board of Directors, Korean Society of Medical Oncology
Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea

“Dr. Hong was a giant in the field of head and neck cancer. In addition to changing the standard of care for head and neck cancer, he also pioneered the concept of cancer prevention in this devastating disease. He is also a great mentor to many junior investigators at MD Anderson and in the field. His passing is a tremendous loss to the field of head and neck cancer but his legacy will live on for many years to come.”

Quynh-Thu Le, MD, AACR Member
Stanford University, Stanford, California

“Wuan Ki Hong will be so very greatly missed.  He was a humble giant in cancer research who enriched us all with his thoughtful intelligence and his kindness. My thoughts are with his loved ones.  Rest well, Ki.”

Emer M. Smyth, PhD, AACR Member
Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York, New York

“This is a tremendous loss of a true visionary cancer clinician and researcher. Ki helped mentor and encourage so many young physicians that his impact will be felt for generations to come. He is directly responsible for much of my professional success, but more importantly he was a true role model of how to collaborate effectively and sincerely across disciplines in a most caring and professional way. It is with deep personal pain and tremendous sorrow that I acknowledge his passing. We were close friends and confidants for nearly 40 years. I can’t simply express my profound sadness at this loss. My God sustain his lovely family during this most difficult time.” 

Gregory T. Wolf, MD, AACR Member
University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“I remember Dr. Hong giving a wonderful plenary talk during the first day of the AACR-KCA Joint Conference on precision medicine in solid tumors, 15 November 2018. He delivered such a passionate talk about the essence of precision medicine that inspired me as a young scientist to evolve and immerse myself in the world of precision medicine. Rest in peace, Dr. Hong.”

Muhamad Hatib A. Rahaman, MSc, AACR Member
University of Malaysia, Terengganu, Malaysia

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“I am very sad at the loss of this great mentor and cancer researcher. I still vividly remember the 4:00 a.m. meetings in Dr. Hong’s office when I was a fellow in medical oncology at MD Anderson. Dr Hong taught us that impeccable expertise, discipline, and integrity are essential to success as physicians and scientists and the advancement of the field. He cared about and followed our progress, and our achievements made him proud. He will be greatly missed.”

Adel B. Tabchy, MD, AACR Member
Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

“We will never forget your help to our careers, encouraginge us to keep going with our trials of chemoprevention and early detection in our country. And I will always thank you for your talk in Rome when you came to present me with the AIRC award. Ugo and I are still together, collaborating in a friendly and respectful manner as was your wish.”

—Gabriella Sozzi, PhD, AACR Member, and Ugo Pastorino, MD
Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

“We are very saddened to learn the passing of Dr. Hong, who was a renowned doctor, very helpful personal advisor, and a good friend. We extend our sincere condolences to his wife and to the rest of his family.”

Changik and Kyungsook Paik, Alexandria, Virginia

“There are not enough words to describe the impact Dr. Hong has had on my life. With his steadfast commitment to mentoring, excellence in research, and vision of the future of oncology he was able to motivate all of us to successfully contribute to cancer research. We aren’t sure how he did it, but he managed to convince all of us, perhaps with the confidence and parental love he displayed (at 6:30 a.m. meetings) that we were capable and obligated to work as hard as possible to improve cancer treatments. I am forever indebted to him for believing in me. How many other oncology giants would do that for a naive first-year fellow? I know I’m not alone.”

Nina Shah, MD
University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California

“This is indeed sad news. Dr. Hong’s seminal contributions in cancer prevention transcended the head and neck area and had an impact on thinking in many areas including gastrointestinal cancers. We will miss his wisdom.”

Sidney Winawer, MD, AACR Member
Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York, New York

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“I will never forget Professor Hong. I had the fortune to work with him at MD Anderson Hospital and to be with his family in Italy. He had a fantastic mind and he was an extraordinary person.”

Francesco Recchia MD, AACR Member
Civilian Hospital Avezzano, L'Aquila, Italy

“Ki Hong was an extraordinary physician, passionately committed to research and focused on the development of substantively better treatments of cancer. He made many important and enduring contributions to the field of oncology, and in so doing, he gave many patients and their families a bright future. He was also a wonderful human being  whose care and concern for his family and friends was legendary. He will be deeply missed by me and all of us who were lucky enough to be his friend.”

Rich O’Reilly, MD, AACR Member
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York

“I am very saddened by the loss of Dr Hong. Ki was a giant in our field and a caring, kind, and wonderful human being. His groundbreaking and innovative research has helped thousands of patients with head and neck cancer. I learned so much from him and I will greatly miss him. My deepest condolences to his family and his MD Anderson colleagues.”

Robert Haddad, MD, AACR Member
Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

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“It was always a pleasure to work with Ki, The VA larynx study was visionary and a sea change in head and neck treatment.”

Marshall Posner, MD
Director, Head and Neck Medical Oncology
The Tisch Cancer Institute

“As I hear the passing of my long-term hero, I am in deep sorrow that I lost one of my longest guide in the career. I first got to know him when I was in medical school back in Seoul, Korea in mid 1990s that one of our alumni lead a landmark study that changed many patients’ quality of life by preserving the voice when they used to routinely face the complete loss of voice for the treatment of laryngeal cancer and he was heading the medical oncology research at one of the largest cancer institutions in the world. 

“Then, I was advised to talk to him when my husband had a research sabbatical in the early 2000s to study in the US to find out if I could continue to develop my career as a physician-scientist as I completed the clinical training as a hematology-oncologist in Korea. 

“While I was working under the guidance of Dr. Hong at MD Anderson when I was closely mentored by Dr. Samaniego at Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma for the AACR-MedImmune Award 2007 as a post-doc, he asked me to schedule meetings at 6 AM almost every month when no one was around in Division of Cancer Medicine office at Anderson. I enjoyed sitting with a giant who was out-of-reach from my level, just there for me when it was still dark outside asking me “what can I do for you, Hoyoung?” each time we met. 

“Since then, I have had a lot of bumps, unexpected changes in the career path, challenges in health and so on but one thing did not change until now; continued support from Dr. Hong.  It did not matter where I worked or whatever position I was at including struggles of matching in US medical system, consideration of career change to non-academic which I did not choose after talking to him.
I am very sure many other researchers will share the memories of how much of research support and inspiration they have received. I would like to add that he has been a great navigator like a father at work who can see someone’s potential, trust the person, patiently waiting to blossom and the only thing he wanted in return was to watch the person grow and make a difference in patients’ lives.

“I am convinced that the only way his effort does not go in vain is to continue working on his legacy and “keep up the good work with pride and integrity” as he used to end his email.
He will be sorely missed.”

Hoyoung M. Maeng, MD
Clinical Director, Vaccine Branch
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute

“I remember Dr. Hong as the most generous and supportive mentor that one can hope for. As the Chief of Cancer Medicine, Dr. Hong took a personal interest in every fellow’s and junior faculty’s  talents and career and helped me and so many other colleagues finding the right path during our early career at MD Anderson. His kind and warm personality will be greatly missed.”

Jan A. Burger, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center 

“Dr. Hong’s legacy lives large, not only in the oncologic disciplines he pioneered but in the many physicians and scientists he trained, now scattered throughout the world’s most prestigious institutions. I came to know Dr. Hong during my Oncology fellowship at MD Anderson. He made it a point to know every single fellow (and there were 40+ at any given time with an influx every year) and I don’t mean just knowing us each by name. He knew every project you were working on, who was mentoring you, what grant you had submitted. It was almost scary and the fellows would joke about it: you’d be walking down a vast corridor at MD Anderson when suddenly a soft voice would come up behind you. “Mary, have you submitted your paper to JCO yet? What’s the status?” You would think – how did he know? 

“I had only just decided where to submit. I remember him telling us that his first grant application was rejected 37 times before it was accepted. Authenticity is a leadership buzz word but Dr. Hong was a natural; he wasn’t afraid to share his failures and vulnerabilities and he was never diminished by the success of others. Dr. Hong knew all about our families, too, and celebrated the many marriages and births that marked our transitions through fellowship. When conflicts arose between the demands of medical training and young families, he had one answer for us, “Family always comes first.” He had a lasting impact on me as a leader and I am sure on the many others that he mentored and counseled. I see his influence in the way I work to get to know everyone on my team, not just professionally but personally, especially the young physicians and scientists who are trying to build their careers and find their ways as spouses, partners or parents. I encourage them to think big, just like he did, and try to help them navigate the difficulties of building a life and a career at the same time.” 

Mary Pinder-Schenck, MD
Associate Vice President
Oncology Global Medical Affairs

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“I would express my deepest condolences to the family. It was my great honor to visit MD Anderson Cancer Center as a college student in Jan.-Feb., 2007, with his help. Morning conference held every Tuesday was really impressive to me. As a head of the Division of Cancer Medicine, he communicated with all the young faculty and clinical fellows over 100 people. Thanks for being an excellent mentor and a great inspiration.”

Han Sang Kim, MD, PhD
Clinical Fellow
Division of Medical Oncology, Yonsei Cancer Center

“It is sad and heartbreaking to hear that Dr. Waun Ki Hong has passed away. He was a giant in cancer medicine. He has been a true mentor for many trainees including myself. I remember him saying that he loved mentoring and helping us because there is no politics involved. He would only need to give expecting nothing in return.

“He used to have breakfast with us every quarter during my full three years of hem/onc fellowship at the MD Anderson listening to all our stories of struggles and achievements. He would often meet with me at 5 a.m. in his office to provide his advice when I needed his guidance. He sent flowers to the hospital when my child was born. He would remember my publications and would often mention them with an encyclopedic memory. I could always feel his genuine heart and passion for mentorship. I would meet him during various cancer meetings every year and he never forgot to ask me how I was doing and whether I was happy. I am forever indebted to his kindness and his exemplary leadership. He always emphasized the value of 'integrity' and 'team science' to me. I sincerely thank Dr. Hong for being a role model for all of us in our field including myself. My deepest condolences to his wife and loved ones. My thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Young Kwang Chae, MD, MPH, MBA
Co-director, Developmental Therapeutics Lurie Cancer Center,
Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois

“I was deeply saddened by the news that Dr. Hong passed away. He was the legendary figure, but also a down-to-earth mentor even to me who just started a career. 

“While it took years to start residency training from circumstances, he was the one who wholeheartedly supported me not to give up. He always worked on helping me out right away whenever he heard about my obstacles.

“I only knew him for six years, but it was a true honor that I had such a caring mentor in life. I will always remember his stern but kind voice saying “you can do this.” ”

Kunhwa Kim, MD
PGY-2 resident
Department of Internal Medicine
Einstein Medical Center

“I have had the enormous privilege of knowing Dr Waun Ki Hong for over three decades. When we first met, he was an assistant professor and I was a medical resident in training. Despite my junior status at the time, he took immediate interest in me and my professional future. Over the years, I was tremendously proud to witness his astonishing rise to become a universally revered academic investigator and global cancer pioneer. No one could match his work ethic, ferocious perseverance and pride, deep commitment to excellence, astonishing research productivity and incredible generosity of spirit. He was famously devoted to all of his colleagues and family.

“As a fellow Korean American, I can say that our community adored and admired Dr. Hong as the personification of the American dream. As my career path evolved unexpectedly from traditional medical oncology to posts as Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health and then US Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Hong constantly stayed in touch to express warm support and encouragement. He always told me he believed in me. I came to learn that I was just one of thousands he mentored from all around the world. He fundamentally changed the life of every person who had the honor of meeting and working with him. 

“Among a lifetime of memories, I will always be grateful that my wife and I were present several years ago when he was honored by his beloved Boston Red Sox and threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park. Before thousands of screaming fans, he was in his glory wearing a Red Sox baseball cap and a "Stand Up To Cancer" T shirt. Everything he did was for a cause that he believed in with every fiber of his being. That’s the way he lived his life.

“Rest in peace my dear friend. Your legendary legacy is now part of history that we will cherish forever.” 

Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH 
Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Kennedy School

“Yonsei Cancer Center and the Korean Cancer Association (KCA) are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of professor Waun Ki Hong. Yonsei’s and KCA’s deepest condolences to professor Hong’s family and loved ones. As a special advisor and a chairman of External Advisory Board of Yonsei, professor Hong taught Yonsei how to make and how to be a team member of premium world-class cancer center, like MD Anderson Cancer Center. As a mentor of Yonsei Alumni, he showed a direct vision of multidisciplinary approach; “our patient, not my patient,” and “our project, not my project.” As an honorable member of Korean Cancer Association, he contributed himself with passion in guiding team science to young clinicians and scientists; how to connect clinics and research, rookies and veterans, East and West, Korean Cancer Association and the AACR. He was a Kernel of Wheat falls to the oncology ground and his vision and enthusiasm will produce many seeds with his spirit of challenge. We’ll remember his legacy on oncology and AACR, and his big smile. Thank you professor Hong for all of your support for the dreams of Yonsei and Korean Cancer Association come true.”  

Hyun Cheol Chung, MD, PhD
Professor of Yonsei Cancer Center
Chairman of Executive Board Members, Korean Cancer Association

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“I was a 1993 clinical trial patient. When my son visited me (with a drain in my neck and pain reducing medication button near my hand) in the hospital then, I did not know whether I would see him graduate to his next elementary school grade in the spring. 

“Participation in Dr. Hong's research clinical trial gave me hope when I signed up. He was present, actively engaged in conversations, updating status and reinforced that hope during each visit for at least the next five years of the trial. God bless

1993 Clinical Trial Patient

“Dr. Waun Ki Hong was an amazing human being, both an outstanding clinician scientist and an incredibly warm, wise and caring colleague. Ki spoke softly, but it was well worth your while to listen carefully to his advice. His words were always thoughtful, helpful and directed straight to the heart of the matter. I will miss him more than I can say. Rest gently my friend.”

Tom Roberts
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

“Dr. Hong was a hero to Korean medical oncologists. As an alumnus and external advisory board member of Yonsei University College of Medicine, he shared invaluable time with us to talk about clinical and translational research and mentorship. We miss him from the bottom of our hearts and will never forget his great sincerity as a mentor to young investigators.” 

Joohyuk Sohn, MD
Chief, Division of Medical Oncology
Yonsei Cancer Center, Seoul, Korea

“Dr. Ki Hong made a significant impact on the careers of many young physicians, including my own career.  His support, especially during my fellowship and as a junior faculty member, was critical to many of my early achievements. His encouragement and guidance kept me going in the right direction, especially when I was uncertain of the path forward. He aimed high and always expected the same from those around him. Dr. Hong set a standard for all of us, and I am confident that what we learned from his example will lead us to many more great discoveries that will benefit cancer patients. Ki Hong certainly made his mark in this field, and he will be missed and remembered as one of the great leaders in cancer medicine.”

Gerald Falchook, MD, MS  
Director, Drug Development Unit
Sarah Cannon Research Institute at HealthONE
Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center

“I am very saddened by the lose Dr. Waun Ki Hong. Dr. Hong was a giant in our field and a pride in Yonsei University of College of Medicine. I express my deepest condolences to his family.”

Minkyu Jung, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor
Yonsei University College of Medicine

“It is hard to believe Dr. Hong has passed away since we just had a two-day SAB meeting with him only a month ago in New Jersey. I can still vividly remember Dr. Hong and he was very passionate and inspiring as always.

“Dr. Waun Ki Hong was one of the greatest leaders in global medical space of our time, whose passion and work help saved the lives of millions of people. It was a great honor to have him as our Chairman of Scientific Advisory Board. With his strong leadership and dedication, he guided us to where Enzychem is today. He was also a good mentor of mine. I will never forget all those journeys I had with him. I will always miss him and cherish all the happy memories I had with him. 

“Dr. Waun Ki Hong will be greatly missed and everyone here at Enzychem is sadden by his death. I would like to express my deepest condolences to Dr. Waun Ki Hong’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and friends.”

Ki Young Sohn
Chairman and CEO
Enzychem Lifesciences Corporation

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“Dr. Hong was a valuable and highly respected mentor in cancer medicine. The effects of his loss are being felt already by those of us who had the honor and pleasure of working with him. It was my great honor to feature Dr. Hong as an inspirational Korean Healthcare Leader in our World Korean Medical Journal. His kindness, humbleness and gentle spirit will be greatly missed and remembered forever.”  

DoHyun Cho, PhD
World Korean Medical Journal 

“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Dr. Hong. Our deepest condolences to Dr. Hong’s family and colleagues.”

The Farrah Fawcett Foundation

“I would like to express my sincere condolences on the death of Dr. Hong, who was a great doctor and a scientist inspired millions of other researchers in cancer research.”

Sun Jae Jung, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Preventive Medicine
Yonsei University College of Medicine 

“We bid a farewell to Dr. Waun Ki Hong, a world-renowned scholar and physician-scientist who made remarkable contributions in the field of cancer research and brought greater hope for cure to patients suffering from illness. The entire family of Yonsei University Health System, doctors and scholars in Korea express our deep sadness at the passing of Dr.Waun Ki Hong.

“Last October, I went to attend his lecture held at Intercontinental Hotel, Los Angeles. As always, he shared with us his heartfelt advice on the future direction of our hospital. I could never imagine that would be the last conversation with Dr. Hong.

“Dr. Hong’s invaluable advice for our organization and his message that we should go forward even when surrouded by difficulties still live within our hearts. I pray that he may rest in eternal peace with God.   

“Dr. Waun Ki Hong is the most outstanding physician-scientists Yonsei University produced out of its 135 years of history. For 30 years, he led MD Anderson Cancer Center serving as chief of the Section of Head and Neck Medical Oncology, chair of the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, and head of the Division of Cancer Medicine.

“The team-based approach Dr. Hong promoted laid ground for the birth of multidisciplinary care in cancer treatment, which resulted in higher survival rates among cancer patients. In recognition of his achievements, he received 17 of the world’s most prestigious academic awards and was awarded the title of distinguished university professor from six universities. He was also elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and served as the first foreign president of the American Association for Cancer Research(AACR).

“Furthermore, the AACR has named an award after a living person for the first time in its history and established AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research to celebrate Dr. Hong’s extraordinary contributions to the advancement of human well-being. 

“Dr. Hong’s dedicated work and achievements have been constantly revered and praised by doctors and scholars across the globe. Dr. Waun Ki Hong was the pride of Yonsei University toward the world.

“Dr. Hong helped guide Yonsei Cancer Center to become one of the leading centers in the world. As the international advisory board leader of Yonsei Cancer Center, he played an integral part in establishing the team-based care within the center. Also, he generously provided junior professors at Yonsei with opportunities and financial support to pursue research at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“Whenever he visited Korea, he made sure to take the time to visit our hospital and meet with the executives and faculty members. When he met with junior doctors, he stressed the attitudes doctors should exemplify. He was also humble enough to enjoy conversations with undergraduate students. He was loved and respected from all generations. 

“We are deeply saddened that Dr. Waun Ki Hong is no longer with us. However, instead of giving in to this sadness, we will do our best to pass on the legacy and message Dr. Hong left behind for the greater development of Yonsei University and medicine in Korea.   

“In June 2017, Dr. Hong gave a lecture at Yonsei Cancer Center on the topic of challenges and achievements of life. He talked about the principles he held on to for 47 years of his life in the U.S. I still vividly remember him saying, “Among many principles, such as determination, passion, innovation, patience and family, the most important thing was the sense of pride to be Korean.”  

“The message he gave us during the lecture that we should strive harder, work diligently, break the barrier, create opportunities, aim higher, have respect for others and treat others with humble mind and generosity will forever live on within our hearts.

“We will follow his teaching, faithfully walking in the path to cure for illness. With his spirit living in our hearts, we will strive harder, work more diligently while  continue on with our efforts to understand one another. 

“Dr. Hong is no longer with us but he will live on in our hearts forever. May he rest in peace. We send our deepest condolences to Dr. Hong’s family.”

Do-Heum Yoon, MD, PhD
President and CEO
Yonsei University Health System

“I cannot believe Dr. Hong passed away. He always whenever he encouraged me during my research training in Houston. His incomparable mentorship shaped me into a surgeon scientist. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Hong who made what I am. Not only stressing the importance of research, he always emphasizes the virtue of human being; humility, generosity, integrity and tenacity. He will be tremendously missed.” 

Jae-Ho Cheong MD, PhD
Professor of Surgery
Chair and Professor, Department of Biomedical Systems Informatics
Yonsei University College of Medicine

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“I still vividly remember the time I’ve spent at MD Anderson Cancer Center under the guidance of Dr. Hong from 2007 to 2009. His accomplishments, passion for medicine and leadership have taught me greatly and served as a true exemplary mentor and turning point in my life. His warm encouragement for my pursuit in cancer research at Yonsei University was one of the big reasons why I’m here today. I’m very saddened that I wasn’t able to fully repay my deepest gratitude to Dr. Hong for all the support he has shown me at both MD Anderson Cancer Center and during his visits in Korea. I will continue to devote my career to cancer research as promised and carry on the path Dr. Hong has paved for me. My prayers are with Dr. Hong's family wishing them serenity and peace.”

Jae Yong Cho, MD, PhD
AACR member 
Professor Yonsei University Gangnam Severance Hospital 

“On behalf of all professors, alumni, and students in Yonsei University College of Medicine, I pay tribute to Dr. Waun Ki Hong's passing. Each step of his life has been a bright light for us, and his academic activities, donations, and various help for his alma mater will be a valuable seed for our future for decades to come. Lots of people are in the procession of memorials in the University. The sorrow that we have lost him cannot be replaced even with the joy he gave to people including us. I would like to pray for him, and Yonsei University will remember him forever.”

Yangsoo Jang, MD, PhD
Dean of Yonsei University College of Medicine
Seoul, Korea

“I want to thank you for your extraordinary contributions to cancer.  You have touched millions of lives.”

Rebecca Savage

“Today I received the e-mail from AACR that Prof. Waun Ki Hong passed away at age 76. The death of Prof. Hong is so sad and is a major loss, because he strongly supported scientific collaborations with Japanese scientists. I will pray that the soul of Prof. Waun Ki Hong may rest in peace.”

Hirota Fujiki, MD, PhD, AACR Member

“Thank you for all you have done for us. We will not be able to forget it. Everybody will miss you. You’ve worked so hard all your life. I wish you relax without any burden in heaven.”

In Sook Woo, MD
Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea

“I met Dr. Hong as a medical oncology fellow at MD Anderson, 2013-2015. At the time he was the division head of Medical Oncology. Despite all his duties, he insisted on hosting a monthly breakfast with the fellows, specifically to help everyone with their careers. I knew him as an educator, and that was what I needed the most at that time.”

Diogo Bugano, MD
Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, São Paulo, Brazil

“I could not believe that Professor Waun Ki Hong passed away suddenly. I met him first at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1987 and since then he always encouraged me as a mentor. During my stay in Houston, Professor Hong and his wife invited us to their house and spent very delightful time together. When I was at Samsung Medical Center, I invited him to the Samsung International Symposium. And he helped us to make a sisterhood relationship between Samsung Medical Center and MD Anderson. I will pray deeply for him and his family.”

Je Ho Lee, MD, PhD, AACR Member
Bundang CHA Hospital, Bundang, Korea

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“Dr. Waun Ki Hong is a contemporary legend, and with his passing I know I am not alone in mourning him personally and professionally. He will continue to be a source of inspiration for future generations, and his work remains a legacy that continues to change lives daily.

“A brilliant clinical researcher, Ki, as he liked to be called, also was a devoted educator, wonderful colleague, and a dear friend. He has inspired, encouraged, and helped many people to further their careers, including me. I came to MD Anderson because Ki was recruiting a biostatistician to assist with his first Head and Neck Program Project grant in 1991. He was masterful in building an interdisciplinary, preeminent research team, and he valued and collaborated closely with statisticians. I have been deeply impressed by Ki’s insights, rigor, and ardent passion in conducting clinical trials to advance science and to benefit patients.  

“Ki often joked that he had a good nose. Indeed, he had an unparalleled instinct for knowing which research areas would bear fruit. He was a pioneer in chemoprevention, as well as an innovative leader in developing targeted therapies. Together, we conducted many seminal trials, including the first adaptive biomarker-based umbrella trial, named BATTLE—a forerunner towards personalized medicine for lung cancer. It was Ki’s big heart that drove his success, and to which I attribute his genuine desire and tireless efforts to help others.

“It is rare to see a person who works harder than Ki. Without Ki, there are no more 5:30 or 6 a.m. meetings—something I looked forward to, in spite of the early hour, because of him. I miss his smiles, laughs, optimism, and devotion to science. I feel privileged to have known Ki, to have worked with him closely, and especially for our friendship. He has finished his race and fought a good fight on behalf of so many. He will forever live in my heart.”

J. Jack Lee, PhD, DDS, MS
Associate Vice President, Quantitative Sciences
Kenedy Foundation Chair in Cancer Research 
Professor, Department of Biostatistics
Univ. of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

“I met Ki many times, at numerous meetings, he was always very kind and friendly. I read his work through the years and he was an excellent scientist and person, a mentor in our field. I asked him for advice several times and appreciated his simple, knowledgeable way to talk research and medicine, and his nice smile. I had the honor and pleasure to visit his Division at MD Anderson and to have lunch with him and his group just a couple of years ago, a nice memory in this sad moment. His contributions to cancer research and to the scientific community have been unique. We will miss him greatly, I am deeply sorry.”

Adriana Albini
Professore 1a Fascia Patologia Generale
Dipartimento di Medicina e Chirurgia
Università Milano Bicocca

“I was shocked to hear the news of Dr. Hong's passing and send my condolences to his family.  He was a selfless supporter of me and others as we have tried to make a difference in our careers against cancer.  We and I will all miss him!”

William Pao MD, PhD
Head, Pharma Research and Early Development
Basel, Switzerland

I am devastated to belatedly hear of the death of my dear friend. Our friendship began as fellows at Memorial-Sloan Kettering and only grew as the years passed. He was the hardest working oncologist I knew. His passion for the Red Sox and mine for the Yankees cemented the relationship. Appropriately, much has been written about his scientific achievements, but he was also one of the warmest and giving of human beings.His shoes will be difficult to fill. Godspeed my friend. 

Paul Hetzel

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