The fourth time might be the charm for Dr. Anand Jillella.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted earlier this week to create the J. Harold Harrison Distinguished University Chair in Medical Oncology and to appoint Jillella as the first to fill it starting July 1. Jillella, currently the associate director for community affairs and outreach at Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University, will be chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, a position he has held before, and associate director for Medical Oncology Services at Georgia Cancer Center.
He first came to MCG for a residency in 1990 before leaving for Yale University in 1993 for a fellowship in hematology/oncology and then intensive training in bone marrow transplant at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center. He came back to MCG in 1996 to establish MCG’s bone marrow transplant program before leaving for a few years to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia in 2002.
He returned to MCG in 2005. When he left the last time in 2013 to go to Emory, it wasn’t by choice, Jillella said.
“It wasn’t my intention to leave,” he said. “Even six months or a year before I left I wasn’t really thinking that I would. I don’t think I left because I wanted to leave. I think the circumstances were such that I could not function and do things the way I wanted to.”
But the connection Jillella has felt for the institution, for the faculty and for the patients in Augusta, brought him back.
“My reason to come (back) is I have a genuine interest in the place,” he said. “I really don’t think the organization or anybody can put a price on that.”
Some of what he started in terms of building up medical oncology services “lost traction and you lost a lot of patient base at MCG for various reasons,” Jillella said. In fact, the endowed chair is nice, but it is the commitment from the institution that was most important, he said.
“I’m grateful and I am extremely honored and flattered that they would offer something like that to me,” Jillella said. “I really don’t think I genuinely deserve it. But what I am more interested in is institutional commitment, both in terms of resources and the decision-making capability.”
One reason the school was interested in bringing him back is his ability to build up programs and connections, said MCG Dean David Hess, who helped to recruit him.
“Anand is very good at collaborating and working with other doctors, other oncologists and of course patients,” Hess said. “One of the reasons we wanted to bring him back was to really build our programs in cancer, not just in the CSRA but throughout the state.”
Jillella said there is an opportunity for the Georgia Cancer Center to become a referral center for a wide area, stretching from Columbia down to south Georgia and to southwest Georgia, that could encompass three to four million people.
“We have a good draw area for some of the programs that we can develop and we technically showed in the last few years (at the AU cancer center) that it works,” he said. “We should put it back where it was and then take it to the next level.”
In addition to helping build the program, Jillella will be counted on to help recruit medical oncology faculty, Hess said. That will be important, Jillella said.
“If we can put together a good group of physicians who are consistently there and consistently available to cater to the needs of the patients and the referring physicians, we can bring that business back to Augusta,” he said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org