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History of CEO/Directors of St. Jude

St. Jude has a vibrant history due in part to its dedicated leaders. From its first director, Donald Pinkel, M.D., who created total therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to its current president and CEO, James R. Downing, M.D., who pioneered the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, they have helped St. Jude make a global impact on childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Dr. Donald Pinkel

1961 - 1973

Dr. Donald Pinkel served as the first director of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, focusing on ALL, the most frequent cancer in young children, he and his colleagues identified four major obstacles to its cure: drug resistance, drug toxicity, meningeal relapse and most important, pessimism.

Pinkel died March 9, 2022 at the age of 95. Read more about his revolutionary work.

Dr. Alvin Mauer

1973 - 1983

Dr. Alvin Mauer served as the second director of St. Jude. During his tenure as director, St. Jude doubled in size, adding a $10.5 million research building. Mauer established the hospital’s Affiliate Program, which created St. Jude clinics in other cities, enabling some children to receive their treatments closer to home rather than traveling to Memphis.

Mauer died May 26, 2010, at the age of 82.

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Dr. Joseph Simone

1983 - 1992

Dr. Joseph Simone served as the third director of St. Jude. He joined the hospital in 1967 as a faculty physician. He chaired the Department of Hematology and served as associate director for Clinical Research. Simone brought scientific attention to St. Jude by entering the Pediatric Oncology Group in 1981 and later paved the way for St. Jude to be a charter member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Simone died January 21, 2021, at the age of 85. Discover more about his ground-breaking achievements while at St. Jude.

Dr. Arthur W. Nienhuis

1993 - 2004

Dr. Arthur W. Nienhuis served as fourth director and CEO of St. Jude. His research interests and expertise in bone marrow transplant, gene therapy and genetic testing paved the way for many advances, including breakthroughs in sickle cell disease and other hematological disorders. Under his leadership, the hospital completed a $1 billion expansion, which included the addition of a Children’s GMP, LLC facility.

Nienhuis died February 3, 2021, at the age of 79. Learn more about his life and legacy.

Dr. William E. Evans

2004 - 2014

Dr. William E. Evans served as the fifth director and CEO of St. Jude. Under his leadership, St. Jude expanded its research to include Chemical Biology and Therapeutics, Epidemiology and Cancer Control, and exploited new technologies to further understand the genomic basis of childhood cancers and to develop individualized approaches to cancer treatment.

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Dr. James R. Downing

2014 - present

Dr. James R. Downing is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s sixth and current director and CEO. Downing’s work as a genome sequencing pioneer, overseeing the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, was recognized in 2012 by TIME magazine as one of the Top 100 new scientific discoveries. 

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