Paul Okunieff_MCM_0641

Paul Okunieff, M.D.

Invisible Connections

She’d never admit it, but 11-year-old Eva Okunieff was proud of her father.

“You could tell she was,” said Paul Okunieff, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center.

It was April, and Okunieff was returning home from visiting his father for Passover. He was in Chicago, on an airplane that was getting ready to taxi away from the terminal, when the flight attendant asked over the PA system if there was a doctor on the plane.

Eva immediately volunteered her father. He helped stabilize a passenger who was having a heart attack until the man could be offloaded by EMTs.

After Okunieff returned to his seat, the flight attendant came up to him with a copy of “Delta Sky” magazine, opened to a UF Health ad that features Okunieff sitting next to a patient in a diner. The ad highlights the “invisible connections” between patients and researchers.

“You have a fan who would like your autograph,” she said.

—Paige Parrinelli

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Summer 2014

Paul Okunieff, M.D

From the Director’s Desk

Clinical trials are at the heart of every advancement in treating cancer, yet lack of understanding about the benefits, risks and opportunities that trials offer can sometimes prevent patients from taking advantage of the newest drugs and treatments they make available.

To Kill a Tumor

Researchers in the UF Health Precision Cancer Care Program are identifying the genes of lung and colon cancer tumors, forming the first center in the state to perform this testing for solid tumors. By identifying particular gene mutations that drive cancers, physicians can deliver better, more targeted treatments to those cancers.

The Great Unknown

Each year, more than 1,000 patients take part in clinical trials at the UF Health Cancer Center. All are helping UF researchers chip away at the great unknown: what makes each person’s cancer tick, and how to stop that ticking without causing harm to the patient over the course of treatment.

Clear As A Bell

UF Health cancer patients and their treatment teams rang the Liminal Bell, an art installation consisting of a bell created from an oxygen tank that is suspended from an oak beam structure. The word liminal is derived from the Latin word “limen,” which means “threshold.”

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