Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas
Ernest Hawk, MD, MPH

Ernest Hawk, MD, MPH

Vice President and Head, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Chair for Early Prevention of Cancer
Professor, Clinical Cancer Prevention

Dr. Hawk’s research interests include the improvement of minority and medically underserved populations’ participation in clinical research, future applications of multi-cancer early detection tests, and the integration of risk assessment, behavioral science, and preventive strategies developed through sequential clinical trials for application in clinical or public health settings. 

Dr. Hawk also serves as the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) Associate Director for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, Co-Director of the CCSG Community Outreach and Engagement component, and past Co-Leader of the CCSG Gastrointestinal Cancer Program (stepped down in March 2023). His background includes research, education, training, and practice in clinical medicine, epidemiology, cancer prevention, clinical trials, disparities, and drug development at several institutions. Before coming to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, he worked at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for 12 years in cancer-preventive drug identification, preclinical testing, and clinical development, participating in the design, conduct, and monitoring of more than 20 phase I-III trials of preventive agents including calcium, aspirin, celecoxib, eflornithine, oltipraz, aerosolized budesonide, and various drug combinations. From 2005 to 2007, he oversaw the NCI’s cancer centers, SPOREs, training, and disparities programs involving oversight of a $620M budget annually; he also served as a co-leader of the NCI’s Translational Research Working Group.

At MD Anderson, Dr. Hawk leads the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, which includes 65 faculty members and more than 350 employees. During his fifteen years in MD Anderson leadership, he has advanced: 1) the division’s prevention and population sciences research across five departments (i.e., epidemiology, behavioral sciences, clinical cancer prevention, health services research, and health disparities research)—a $20-25M/year, peer-reviewed, research enterprise; 2) delivery of high-quality clinical preventive/screening services in the division’s Cancer Prevention Center, typically providing 25-50 thousand billable preventive services/year as well as the opportunity to participate in innovative phase I-III clinical preventive protocols; 3) conceptualization and delivery of educational and training programs for junior clinical- and public-health colleagues, typically supporting 100 to 150 students/trainees annually; and 4) cancer control actions to promote the effective implementation of evidence-based actions in the community at the population level—especially among poor, disadvantaged, and medically underserved constituents—to achieve a meaningful and lasting reduction in the burden of cancer risks, incidence, mortality, and adverse outcomes.

Dr. Hawk’s oversight of these departments and MD Anderson’s broad commitment to cancer prevention/screening and health promotion enabled the establishment (in 2008) of the Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention and Risk Assessment through the generosity of the Duncan family and other donors. Conceived and led by Dr. Hawk and a faculty leadership team that has overseen the distribution of more than $35M over the last 15 years, the Duncan Family Institute has supported innovative prevention-specific research, research infrastructures, pilot research projects, community-based programming, and clinical prevention infrastructures to promote MD Anderson patients’ understanding, adoption, and maintenance of healthy lifestyles as a priority through both its Cancer Prevention Center and Integrative Medicine Center. Finally, Dr. Hawk has served as an invited external advisor on cancer prevention and control, population sciences, and community outreach and engagement to 16 NCI-designated cancer centers, and as an internal advisor to several institutional SPOREs and two disparities-focused centers to lend his expertise in cancer prevention research. He currently receives CPRIT funding that supports increased access to cervical cancer screening and treatment services in Texas.


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