Spring 2019
In the first weeks of studying medicine at Rush, Patrick Loehrer, MD ’78/RMC; GME, was seeing patients alongside primary care doctors. Witnessing the actual effects of diseases and conditions on people so soon after reading about them in textbooks inspired his passion for treatment.
“Those experiences right off the bat at Rush have served me during my entire professional life,” said Loehrer, who serves as director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and is an IU Distinguished Professor as well as associate dean for cancer research and the H.H. Gregg Professor of Oncology at Indiana University School of Medicine.
“Incredibly smart people taught me that if you take the time to learn something about each patient during a physical examination, you could really help them. I became very patient-focused through my training at Rush.”
Today he is a renowned oncologist with expertise in the challenging and uncommon cases of thymus gland cancer, in addition to bladder, pancreatic, testicular and colon cancers. Seeing lives cut short by the disease fueled Loehrer’s desire to not only find better treatments but also to teach future generations of oncologists to do the same.
“The faculty at Rush were such tremendous role models who led me into academics,” he said. “Making contributions through the tripartite mission of academic medicine (research, education and patient care) allows one to fully serve this noblest of professions.”

The faculty at Rush were such tremendous role models who led me into academics. Making contributions through the tripartite mission of academic medicine (research, education and patient care) allows one to fully serve this noblest of professions.

Patrick Loehrer, MD ’78/RMC; GME

Loehrer was in residency at Rush when, under the direction of Philip Bonomi, MD, professor of medical oncology, he wrote a paper about three thymic cancer cases. While researching, Loehrer found no clinical trials existed for thymic cancer treatment.
One year after completing his residency, Loehrer, at Indiana University for a fellowship, led the first-ever clinical trial done on thymic cancer using a combination of therapies. Loehrer’s therapy remains the standard first-line treatment for thymomas to this day.

Patrick Loehrer, MD ‘78/RMC, (right) after being named the 2017 Rush Medical College Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for education and research in 2017; with Mikki Goodman, MS ‘75; DNP ‘00/CON, (middle) and Larry Goodman,  MD, GME, former CEO of Rush University Medical Center and the Rush System (left).

Loehrer’s efforts to bring cancer treatment to those in need weren’t contained to the United States. He partnered with colleagues at IU to create the first sustainable oncology patient care and education program in western Kenya as part of the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare program, or AMPATH. According to IU, about 8,000 patients are now seen each year and nearly 60,000 women have been screened for breast and cervical cancers through this effort.
“The first time I went to Kenya, they would say there’s nothing they could do for cancer patients,” Loehrer said. “I came back thinking, ‘If we changed cancer care in the States, with a little help we can certainly do it there.’ Now every patient they have who needs chemotherapy can get it.”
In recognition for his career-long efforts to enrich cancer treatments and health care instruction in the United States and abroad, Loehrer was chosen as the 2017 Rush Medical College Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for education and research. He described receiving the award as a humbling experience.
“Looking back, Rush really took a chance on me,” he said. “I was pursuing a mechanical engineering degree when I applied to medical school. I’m incredibly grateful to Rush, who in taking that chance, enabled me to find my true vocation.”
Rush is the proud alma mater of alumni who are on the leading edge of health care worldwide. Which Rush alumni do you consider to be trailblazers in their field? Tell us via email or social media, using #RushUMag.