Dr. Roberts on The Power of Collaboration; Division of Pediatrics Hematology/Oncology

 Dr. William Roberts

Division Chief of Hematology and Oncology, and Medical Director of Children’s Specialists San Diego, Dr. William Roberts has served as a physician for over 18 years. Amongst the many new UC San Diego Faculty since the birth of the Rady Medical Foundation in 2009, Dr. Roberts is an active proponent of collaborative medicine to caring and curing kids – especially kids with cancer.

With a natural inclination to do critical care, continuity care, and long-term follow-up care, Dr. Roberts found that he could do all three in one discipline: hematology/oncology medicine. Although 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer have long term survival, 20 percent still do not survive this devastating disease. Understanding childhood cancer, finding cures, and monitoring treatments carefully, are the most important concerns in pediatric cancer research today.

A native of California, Dr. Roberts is board-certified in pediatric hematology/ oncology and earned his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine. He completed his pediatric residency at Brown University and a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. He has been a member of Children’s Specialists since 1992. In 2009, he joined the UC San Diego Pediatrics faculty as a Clinical Professor.

“The goal is to be inclusive and translational,” Dr. Roberts expresses. “Our vision is to engage the clinicians and basic science researchers in collaborative, translational research. By combining their skills and knowledge we should be able to better understand the diseases and develop more targeted and effective therapies.

Boasting 13 faculty, the Hematology/Oncology Division is the only one to provide state-of-the-art tertiary and quaternary care to children with blood disorders and cancer in the larger San Diego region. These pediatric hematologists/oncologists provide care in general hematology and oncology, Stem Cell Transplantation, Sickle Cell Disease, Hemophilia, Neuro-Oncology, Palliative Care, and Long-Term Follow-Up of cancer survivors. Additionally, there are programs in Integrative Medicine and Comprehensive Psychosocial Services.

Through active collaborations with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and UCSD’s Moores Cancer Center, the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology continues to effectively integrate its mission to conduct clinical, basic, and translational research, and develop experimental therapeutics.

“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has several clinical trials using novel and innovative therapies as well as focused research programs in pediatric oncology. UCSD has significant basic science and cancer research. Combining both of these with the assets at RCHSD allows for the development of an entity that is potentially greater than the sum of its parts,” Dr. Roberts shares. “Through these collaborative efforts, we can improve the understanding of the diseases we treat and thereafter improve the quality of treatment for children with cancer and blood disorders, lessening side effects and improving quality of life for both for the child and the family.”

Currently part of the international Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the Division is also a participant in the Neuroblastoma & Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC), the Pediatric Blood & Marrow Transplant Consortium (PBMTC), the Clinical Trials Network (CTN), and other clinical research organizations. Dr. Roberts was one of the four founding members of the NMTRC. Additionally, the Division participates in translational research projects with scientists from the several biomedical institutes in San Diego.

“There has been a well-coordinated national effort among centers that treat children with cancer and the results are remarkable,” Dr. Roberts explains. “Improvement in the survival rates for childhood cancer is one of the success stories of modern medicine.”

If he could ask for one thing to grow and expand the Division, Dr. Roberts enthusiastically replied, “More people! We need more people with time, expertise, passion, and great ideas. To find solutions, we need talented thinkers to study the problems we face today.”

Dedicated to training the next generation to lead the way in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Dr. Roberts is the Director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program, which is ACGME accredited. He is also a resident advisor, CPC preceptor, and coordinator for the Hematology/Oncology rotation for second-year pediatric residents in the UCSD/RCHSD Pediatric Residency Program. All faculty of the Division provide education to medical students, residents, and fellows.

Together with Dr. Paula Aristizabal, Dr. Roberts has been working on the development of self-sustaining pediatric hematology and oncology programs in Tijuana, Mexico. Their international outreach program has helped with the successful development of a pediatric oncology unit staffed with specialized physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals. The program is now accredited by the federal program in Mexico that funds treatment for pediatric cancer. This funding has allowed for the development of essential staff and infrastructure, which will ensure the future success of the program.

“Further advances in pediatric hematology/oncology will only be possible through innovative research,” Dr. Roberts adds. “We have a strong clinical program coupled with world-class basic science and cancer research. With our continued collaborations with St. Jude, the Moores Cancer Center, Sanford-Burnham Institute, and others, we are poised to contribute significantly to these developments.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Shivani Singh, Sr. Writer, Dept of Pediatrics, UC San Diego s1singh@ucsd.edu

SCIENTIFIC CONTACT: Dr. William Roberts, Division Chief, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Dept. of Pediatrics, UC San Diego wiroberts@ucsd.edu