Sep. 25--ST. LOUIS -- Dr. Timothy Eberlein has a challenge for St. Louis.

The director of Siteman Cancer Center, who this week accepted the 2019 Citizens of the Year award on behalf of philanthropist Alvin Siteman and himself, urges the city to take the lead in other important efforts by replicating the kinds of partnerships that accelerated the center's success.

"Can the St. Louis region become equally 'exceptional' in the elimination of racism? The equality of education?" Eberlein asked. "Can St. Louis continue to grow the biotechnology community and plant science research to become the leader in the United States in these areas? Can the St. Louis region become the envy of other cities and regions in the United States?"

In a rare combination, Siteman and Eberlein shared this year's award, created in 1955 to honor those who demonstrate concern for the city's growth and vitality. The honor, usually given to just one person, is sponsored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and selected by a committee of past winners.

Ian Caso, president and publisher of the Post-Dispatch, and 2018 winner Kathy Osborn, president of the Regional Business Council, presented the award to the pair during a video-recorded ceremony because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Together, they have guided Siteman Cancer Center into an international leader in cancer treatment, research and prevention, education and community outreach," Osborn said.

Eberlein, in a speech accepting the award, focused on the partnerships that led Siteman Cancer Center to become one of the top three centers in the United States with an annual research budget over $135 million.

First is the partnership with Siteman, which began over 21 years ago when the philanthropist and his wife, Ruth Siteman, donated the $35 million that became the catalyst needed to make the center a reality. Siteman Cancer Center opened in 2001 on the campus of Washington University School of Medicine, and has grown to include five locations across the St. Louis region, treating 75,000 patients a year.

Eberlein has been the center's only director, and Siteman has continued to quietly give millions to its budding scientists, leading to some of the biggest breakthroughs in cancer research.

Partnerships across disciplines at the university, including social work, biomedical engineering, psychology and chemistry have led to over 1,000 active clinical research trials and impacted the entirety of cancer care, Eberlein said. Everyone from clerks, to medical assistants to the most distinguished faculty members work together to provide exceptional care to each patient.

Eberlein also praised partnerships with community leaders and donors whose fundraisers such as the Illumination Gala and Pedal the Cause have helped fuel the center's growth and innovation in genomics, personalized cancer care and new imaging technologies to better diagnose cancers at an earlier stage.

Partnerships with area church leaders, neighborhood organizations and community providers are helping the cancer center address cancer disparities, he said. Over the last decade, the strategies have helped reduce late-stage presentation of breast cancer among Black women in north St. Louis County by 40%.

"I hope that I have been able to convince all of you that with effective and lasting partnerships," Eberlein said, "there is much more that St. Louis can accomplish."

Caso said he was proud to add Eberlein and Siteman to the list of winners.

"Their partnership," he said, "embodies the principles and optimism of the Citizen of the Year award."

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