By Jeff Tucker

Dr. Chuck Wiggins Honored with National Award

New Mexico Tumor Registry Director recognized for long years of service, teaching, and advancing cancer surveillance

Chuck Wiggins, PhD, Director of the New Mexico Tumor Registry, was recently honored by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries with its Calum S. Muir Memorial Award.

The prestigious award honors those who have made substantive and outstanding contributions to the field of cancer surveillance, which examines the differences in cancer rates and types between different groups of people.

Wiggins was selected “in recognition of his long-standing service to the cancer surveillance community; commitment to addressing cancer disparities; history of teaching and mentoring the next generation of cancer surveillance scientists; and his ability to ask the tough questions that challenge our thinking and move the field forward,” the association said.

The award singled out his longstanding interest in cancer in underserved populations. He has worked extensively to understand the cancer burden among the diverse people of the Southwest.

“I am honored to receive this recognition from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries,” Wiggins said. “Truly, however, my accomplishments are readily attributable to our team at the New Mexico Tumor Registry, and to my faculty colleagues, staff and students at The University of New Mexico. This award emphasizes the importance of public health surveillance for cancer here in New Mexico, across the country and around the world.”

The document also praised Wiggins’ friendly demeanor and inquisitive intelligence, as well as his active participation in the NAACCR, including serving as its president from 2015-2017.

Wiggins first joined the New Mexico Tumor Registry in 1978 as an intern from The University of New Mexico. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in health education, he joined full time as a reporting assistant.

He left to pursue his master’s degree in epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and in 1983 he returned to the New Mexico Tumor Registry as an epidemiologist. He received his doctorate from the University of Washington in 1999 and returned to the New Mexico Tumor Registry as director in 2003.

UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius.

Its more than 120 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 600 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provide treatment to 65% of New Mexico's cancer patients from all across the state and partner with community health systems statewide to provide cancer care closer to home. They treated approximately 14,000 patients in about 100,000 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital.

A total of nearly 400 patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments that include tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing.

The more than 100 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded $35.7 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects. Since 2015, they have published nearly 1000 manuscripts, and promoting economic development, they filed 136 new patents and launched 10 new biotechnology start-up companies.

Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 500 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery.

Categories: Comprehensive Cancer Center