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portrait of Thomas Robbins

January 20, 2012

Robbins Named First Simmons Cancer Institute Endowed Chair

Dr. K. Thomas Robbins, professor of otolaryngology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and director of Simmons Cancer Institute, has been named the recipient of the Simmons Cancer Institute Endowed Chair of Excellence in Oncology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides and Barnerd LLC, and the Simmons Family Foundation established the $2 million endowment fund as part of the $10.2 million gift to SIU School of Medicine to enhance teaching and research related to cancer treatment. Specifically, the resources will be used to advance the scientific understanding of the disease process, provide new insights into the epidemiology of the disease, and develop new treatments in clinical care for cancer patients.

“My firm and my wife, Jayne, and I are all very proud to have played a part in establishing this incredible medical facility. Dr. Robbins played a critical role in bringing the institute to life and developing it into a premier provider of comprehensive cancer services,” said John Simmons, president and chairman of the Simmons Firm. He is also a member of the SIU Board of Trustees.

Robbins has been selected as the first to hold the chair because of his more than 30-year career in the field of head and neck surgical oncology and the international recognition he has earned for his work. 

“Dr. Robbins’ leadership has advanced the Simmons Cancer Institute to the dynamic and innovative research and patient care institute it is today. Not only is Dr. Robbins a caring clinician and researcher, he has been a visionary leader for the SCI to advance new programs and new initiatives to improve the lives of cancer patients," said Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey, SIU School of Medicine’s dean and provost.

Dr. Robbins’ research on the novel application of intra-arterial chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy, funded by the National Cancer Institute, has helped to advance the application of chemoradiation as a new standard of therapy for advanced head and neck cancer.

Robbins joined the SIU faculty in 2003 as professor and chair of otolaryngology. He was appointed director of the cancer program in 2004.  Prior to joining SIU, Robbins held chair positions at the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee as well as faculty positions at the University of California at San Diego, the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Texas at Houston.

Throughout his career, he has authored more than 200 scientific publications and edited several books. Robbins has received many honors for his achievements in oncology and academic pursuits. He completed an otolaryngology residency at Dalhousie University and subsequently at the University of Toronto. Robbins then completed a fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology at the Institute of Laryngology and Otology in England, under the tutelage of the late Sir Donald Harrison.

He is currently the president-elect of the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division and president of the Abraham Lincoln Council for Scouting.
Robbins and his wife, Dr. Gayle Woodson, have four children and three grandchildren. Together they have led an outreach project at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center supporting the development of an ear, nose and throat (ENT) training program in Tanzania, a country with one of the lowest number of doctors for this specialty.

The mission of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer needs through education, research, patient care and community service. Its website is