In February of 2021, Dan Mulkerin, M.D., boarded a plane headed for Rochester, N.Y. He was on his way to tour the University of Rochester Medical Center and the Wilmot Cancer Institute for a new job opportunity, thanks to an invitation from a colleague, Ruth O’Regan. She had just landed in Rochester herself, having joined the URMC as the Charles A. Dewey Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine and Wilmot Cancer Institute’s associate director for Mentoring and Career Development.
It was this “foot in the door” and longtime connection that intrigued Mulkerin — again. Thirty years ago, in the winter of 1991, as a then-medical student at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Mulkerin was weighing his options for residency programs. URMC had a strong reputation and was near the top of Mulkerin’s list. But he ultimately chose the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, completing his education and serving patients there for more than 20 years, including at the Carbone Cancer Center, where he worked closely with O’Regan.
This time, he was ready to make the leap to Rochester.
“At Wilmot, the thing that got me excited again was the incredibly positive energy,” Mulkerin explains. “The director and executive team had a clear vision that Wilmot would become an NCI-designated cancer center, that they were going to raise the level of science and research being done here, and raise the level of clinical care, not only in Rochester, but in the entire community that we serve in upstate New York.”
The energy carried through Mulkerin’s entire visit. He toured parts of Wilmot’s 27-county catchment area, including stops at regional locations in Greece, Canandaigua, and Dansville. He understood that not only had this cancer center set exciting goals, they had already accomplished so much.
For example, well before Mulkerin stepped off the plane, Wilmot had made a significant investment and effort to care for patients beyond Monroe County, west to Batavia, east to Canandaigua, and south to places like Wellsville, Olean, Hornell, and Elmira. As Mulkerin saw the region, his decision to move to Rochester became a little easier. He accepted the positions of associate director, Regional Operations for Wilmot Cancer Institute and vice chair, Regional Operations for the Department of Medicine for the University of Rochester. Mulkerin started in his new post last September.
Not taking long to settle in to his role, Mulkerin will help Wilmot open its 14th location in Webster this summer. The site makes sense: In 2020, for instance, Wilmot drew more patients from Webster than from any other town in the area. The new Wilmot Webster Cancer Center will provide multidisciplinary cancer care for patients, including medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology and other services. The 21,000-square-foot facility, on Hard Road near Route 104, will offer 18 exam rooms as well as infusion and radiation therapy areas.
“Wilmot is extending the benefits of a university cancer center and program into communities where patients live,” he says. “We aren’t just offering exceptional clinical care, but offering access to innovative care in the forms of research through clinical trials and by educating doctors and nurses who live and work in those communities.”
Mulkerin also has big plans for the future: He’s dedicating time and resources to recruit additional faculty members to grow the overall capacity to care for patients, to extend collaborative research throughout the region, and to enhance education opportunities.
More than half of Wilmot’s patients receive their care at regional locations. “We can’t put the Wilmot Cancer Center in every small community in our catchment area but we can create partnerships in these areas to make the care the best possible, and to offer patients innovation through clinical trials in the communities they live in,” he adds.
At the Carbone Cancer Center in the Midwest, he opened several regional locations and is poised to do the same for upstate New York.
“We have the opportunity and unique skills to take care of people at very difficult points in their life,” Mulkerin says. “And it’s up to us to use our skills to do just that. Shouldn’t everyone have access to that in some way?”