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Dr. Colleen Lawton to Retire in January 2024

Colleen Lawton, MDDr. Colleen Lawton will be retiring from MCW following nearly 40 years of service, effective Jan. 9, 2024.

Dr. Lawton excelled in her undergraduate studies and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Marquette University in 1979. She completed medical School and Residency in Radiation Oncology at MCW and joined the Department of Radiation Oncology Faculty in 1987. A decade later in 1997, having made highly impactful contributions across all missions of MCW, Dr. Lawton became the 33rd woman promoted to Professor and was later awarded tenure in 2002.

Her first peer reviewed manuscript entitled Extended field radiation for prostate carcinoma with para-aortic lymph node metastasis was published in 1986 and the associated platform presentation was awarded the1985 American Radium Society Resident Essay Award. This was the first of many publications pertaining to the treatment of prostate cancer and foreshadowed Dr. Lawton’s major contributions to our field that define the current role of radiation therapy in the treatment of prostate cancer and other GU malignancies.

Early in her career, Colleen also accepted a major challenge to join a distinguished multidisciplinary team to help stand up a world class bone marrow transplant program at MCW. This work with Robert Ash, Chris Chitambar, James Casper, Robert Truitt, Kevin Murray, and other MCW collaborators, was foundational to the institutional reputation related to bone marrow transplantation that MCW continues to enjoy. Of note is her initial work related to T-Cell depleted allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) that incorporated an innovative fractionated TBI regimen. At the time, this work set the standard for unrelated allogeneic transplantation as highlighted in landmark publications in the New England Journal of Medicine, Blood, and other high impact journals. As part of this foundational work, Colleen and her colleagues were the first to describe BMT related renal nephropathy syndrome in adults. Funded by an ASCO career development award and other grants, Dr. Lawton and her team went on to develop liver and kidney shielding techniques that reduced the incidence of this complication.

Remarkably, partnering with her mentor John Molder, this team also developed a rat model of BMT related renal injury that was used to identify off-label use of ACE inhibitors to mitigate this injury. The ACE inhibitor story remains a focus of our radiobiology section and other laboratories across the world that continue to investigate the use of ACE inhibitors as a model compound for the mitigation of other normal tissue radiation injury. As you might expect, she has frequently been invited as a visiting professor and lecturer on these topics and others. To date she has published over 220 full length peer reviewed manuscripts, nearly 150 abstracts, and numerous book chapters, invited reviews, and letters to the editor in her areas of focus.

Complimenting her clinical contributions, Dr. Lawton has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to service. She served the Department as the MCW Residency Program Director from 1990-2014 and as Department Vice Chair since 2011. She has also served on multiple important committees and or in leadership roles within ASTRO, RTOG/NRG, AAWR, RSNA, ACR, ABR, ARS, punctuated by her service as the 54th overall and 4th women president of ASTRO from 2011-12. Most recently, Dr. Lawton co-chaired the Development Committee that established the Radiation Oncology Institute (ROI). She has since been a driving force within the ROI, passionately serving as an ROI committee leader, president, board member, and is the current Chair of the ROI Board of Directors through 2023. Her impactful service to our specialty societies was unequivocally acknowledged when she received the ASTRO Gold Medal in 2021.

This incomplete summary of Dr. Lawton’s many accomplishments is not the whole story. Dr. Lawton has mentored countless medical students, residents, and faculty, serving as a role model, particularly for women pursuing an academic career in the field of Radiation Oncology and academic medicine in general. Further, she has been central to establishing a culture of caring in our department, always ready to help those who might be struggling, yet still challenging each of us to do better and to do the right thing, at the right time, and for the right reason.

We are grateful for her many years of valuable service and collaboration, and sincerely wish Colleen, her husband Pat, their children, grandchildren, and her extended family our very best wishes in retirement.