Director and Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Cheryl Willman was born in Indiana and raised in the Midwest. She received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and her professional degree in medicine (M.D.) from The Mayo School of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota in 1981. Dr. Willman completed post-doctoral training in cancer research and pathology at the National Institutes of Health in Washington DC, at UNM, and at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Today, Dr. Willman is an internationally known cancer researcher and Director & CEO of the University of New Mexico Cancer Research & Treatment Center – “the UNM CRTC.” The CRTC was first founded by the State Legislature as the Official Cancer Center of the State of New Mexico in 1971. In 2005, the CRTC achieved the very prestigious designation and federal funding as a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Center, joining the elite ranks of the 60 best cancer treatment and research centers in the United States. The 62 oncology physicians, 110 cancer researchers, and over 250 staff of the UNM CRTC are dedicated to providing outstanding cancer care, conducting world class research, training the next generation of oncology healthcare professionals, and bringing community education and outreach programs to all New Mexicans.
In her research, Dr. Willman has focused on finding the causes and the cures for patients affected by leukemia. She is the Director of the Leukemia Research Programs for the NCI’s Children’s Oncology Group and Southwest Oncology Group. Her UNM laboratories, supported by over $16 million in funding from the NCI and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, receive leukemia samples from the majority of children and one-third of adults in the United States who are affected by leukemia. She is leading a consortium of investigators from UNM, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who are applying advances from the human genome project to improve leukemia diagnosis and discover new and more effective drugs and therapies. In the past year, this UNM/Sandia team has filed four new patents on their discoveries.
Throughout her career, Dr. Willman has received numerous research and public service awards, including in 2001 the 16th annual Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women and most recently the 2005 New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Award. She is involved in leadership roles in many national organizations. She has received the UNM Teacher of the Year and Best Lecturer Awards from the UNM School of Medicine and is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Women in Science Hall of Fame.