Dr. Anderson Collier checks the condition of Mary Frances Sutton of Monticello, a Children's Cancer Center patient, and her bear, Blueberry.
Dr. Anderson Collier checks the condition of Mary Frances Sutton of Monticello, a Children's Cancer Center patient, and her bear, Blueberry.
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Children's Cancer Center sees growth, anticipates changes

Published on Monday, July 9, 2018

By: Cynthia Wall

As construction continues outside Children’s Cancer Center, part of Batson Children’s Hospital, the staff inside are doing a bit of renovation of their own.

Dr. Anderson Collier, professor of pediatric hematology and oncology, was named CCC director this spring, part of several changes coming to the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.

“We want to continue to provide state of the art, cutting edge therapy to all patients,” Collier said. “We want to make sure patients can come here to get whatever research, clinical trials they couldn’t get elsewhere.” 

As director he leads Mississippi’s only pediatric cancer center and cancer and hematologic disorders clinics throughout the state.

“Dr. Collier is a great addition to UMMC’s efforts to offer exceptional cancer care and research for all Mississippians,” said Dr. John Ruckdeschel, Cancer Institute director and professor of hematology and oncology.

Other changes coming to the division include the following:

  • Dr. Gail Megason, professor of pediatric hematology and oncology, stepped down as director but will continue to see patients at clinics in Jackson and Gulfport,  will work with fellows to help them prepare for certification boards and will do some research.
“The division’s in good hands and we’re in great shape,” she said. “I’m maintaining my transplant role and I hope to do research with that.” 
  • Dr. Jeanette Pullen, professor emeritus, who is credited with starting in the 1970s what would become the Children’s Cancer Center, will no longer continue her part time role with UMMC. She retired in 2005 but returned to work with fellows.
“I’m so proud of the current folks,” Pullen said. “I’ve been able to be on site and see all the projects. Dr. Megason did a wonderful job and Dr. Collier is doing a wonderful job.”

Directors, past and present, of UMMC Children's Cancer Center, are from left, Dr. Gail Megason, Dr. Jeanette Pullen and Dr. Anderson Collier. Collier became director in April.
Directors past and present of UMMC Children's Cancer Center include, from left, Dr. Gail Megason, Dr. Jeanette Pullen and Dr. Anderson Collier. Collier became director of the CCC in April.
  • Two fellows joined the faculty in July: Dr. Dereck Davis, who will work with transplant patients, and Dr. Laura Newman, who will work with patients with bleeding and clotting disorders.

While he’s excited about the future, Collier, the third CCC director following Megason and Pullen, said “Most of the time I try not to think about it. I think about the shoes I have try to fill. Dr. Pullen is legend, not only here but around the country.”

“Our fellows probably get tired of me quoting old studies and study numbers. I tell them, ‘You do that because Dr. Pullen was the one who determined what you do. As you are sitting there listening to her, know that the stuff she teaches…she helped create that knowledge.”

At UMMC, he hopes to advance the thread established by the directors he follows and “create new knowledge” through clinical care, clinical trials and research.

Plans include the following:

  • Working with Children’s of Mississippi as it constructs a new pediatric building that will be home to pediatric imaging services and make more surgical suites available.
“The new imaging center for pediatrics is the most vital thing for us,” he said. Additional space also will bring more pediatric subspecialties together. “This makes it easier for patients. They can walk across the hall instead of drive down the street.”
  • Adding new CCC subspecialty clinics. This will bring all the experts a child needs to see to the clinic on the same day. That’s often the case now for children with cancer. Collier is working to add similar clinics for children with sickle cell or other hematologic disorders.
  • Increasing offerings for the state’s sickle cell population and engaging Mississippi’s stable sickle cell population to conduct some advanced research on the disease.
“We can and should advance the field and create new knowledge,” he said. Collier believes the children’s clinics can make a big impact on a large population.

Children's Cancer Center patient Mary Frances Sutton of Monticello checks out Dr. Anderson Collier's rubber duckie tie.
Mary Frances Sutton of Monticello, a CCC patient, checks out Dr. Anderson Collier's rubber duckie tie.

“It’s a relatively stable population with little movement. There’s great potential in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia to do some advanced research in sickle cell disease,” he said.

  • Working with the adult cancer teams to provide smoother transitions for pediatric patients who are aging out of the children’s services. “Since more kids are surviving cancer now, we need to work with adult hematologists and oncologists and the patient’s own primary care doctors on transitioning that care,” he said.

Cancer treatment may put them at higher risk for later problems. For example, he said, girls who had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are at higher risk of breast cancer so they may need to start mammograms earlier.  “This is another area ripe for research,” he said.

  • Collier also hopes to look at care for cancer patients ages 15-39. The needs of older patients are different than those of elementary school age children, he said.

“This is where the Cancer Institute and UMMC can and should excel. No one else can run trials we can run and no one else has pediatric and adult hematology and oncology in house under the same roof.”

Collier sits on the UMMC Cancer Institute’s Clinical Leadership Committee and is part of its efforts to maintain and improve services for pediatric and adult cancer patients.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Collier completed an internship and residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric hematology and oncology at University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center. He has completed the Millsaps College Else School of Management Business Advantage Program since coming to UMMC in 2013.