Mark A. Israel Named to the Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer

Mark A. Israel, MD, director of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC), has been named the inaugural holder of the Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. This chair supports the director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center in advancing innovative research that translates into clinical and preventative cancer care.

Mark Israel, MD
Mark A. Israel, MD

The newly established endowed chair is made possible by the generosity of the Reverend Preston T. Kelsey and Virginia Rice Kelsey, who funded the chair with gifts totaling $5 million. Preston Kelsey, a retired Episcopal minister and 1958 Dartmouth College graduate, and Virginia Kelsey, an artist and sculptor, have deep ties to the Upper Valley region and returned to the area full-time 16 years ago. Longtime supporters of the Cancer Center and close friends of its former director, Dr. O. Ross McIntyre, they have known Dr. Israel since he was named director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center in 2001.

The Kelseys’ gift of the chair was inspired by Dr. Israel’s strong support for collaborative, interdisciplinary science, in which teams of clinical investigators, cancer researchers, and physician-scientists work together to find new ways to prevent and treat cancer. “This kind of collaboration was very important to us, and something that we enthusiastically embraced from the first time we heard Mark talk about it,” says Reverend Kelsey, whose family has been directly touched by cancer. “We wanted to support that.”

“The Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer is a wonderful recognition of the great work Mark Israel has done at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center,” said Chip Souba, MD, ScD, MBA, dean of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. “As director of the Cancer Center, Mark is an excellent leader and has built a nationally recognized program, but he is also a skilled and compassionate physician-investigator who has touched and improved the lives of many people in our community.”

A professor of pediatrics and of genetics at the Geisel School of Medicine, Israel has published more than 200 papers and mentored more than 75 students and fellows. As director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, he has delivered on an ambitious agenda, expanding cancer research laboratories and clinical space and building strong research collaborations with Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

Lee Helman, MD, Scientific Director for Clinical Research at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research and a former postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Israel’s laboratory, comments: “I can honestly say my decision to choose Dr. Israel as a mentor was the most important decision of my academic career and started me on an exciting path as a physician-scientist that carries forward to this day. He was truly a remarkable mentor and played a major role in any success I have achieved. I am thrilled that Dr. Israel has been honored with the inaugural Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer.”

An internationally distinguished cancer physician and scientist, Israel specializes in the molecular and cellular biology of pediatric brain tumors. In particular, his research focuses on the pathogenesis of nervous system tumors and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. He has served on the scientific advisory boards of organizations supporting cancer care and research in the United States and Europe and on the executive committees of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, and the Israel Cancer Research Fund. He is the recipient of several prestigious national awards, including the Farber Award for outstanding contributions to neuro-oncology, and is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It’s very satisfying to see Mark named to this chair,” says Reverend Kelsey. “We’re just really pleased with what he’s been able to do as leader of the Cancer Center and with the place it has assumed in the world of cancer research. The collaborative environment he’s built has proven to be very successful.”

About the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Founded in 1797, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth strives to improve the lives of the communities it serves through excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. The Geisel School of Medicine is renowned for its leadership in medical education, health care policy and delivery science, biomedical research, global health, and in creating innovations that improve lives worldwide. As one of America’s leading medical schools, Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine is committed to training new generations of diverse health care leaders who will help solve our most vexing challenges in health care.

About Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Norris Cotton Cancer Center combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine with patient-centered cancer care provided at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock regional locations in Manchester, Nashua, and Keene, NH, and St. Johnsbury, VT, and at 12 partner hospitals throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. It is one of 41 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute’s “Comprehensive Cancer Center” designation. Learn more about Norris Cotton Cancer Center research, programs, and clinical trials online at