Now Enrolling: EA1211/DIRECT for Patients with Early HER2-Positive Breast CancerJune 30, 2023
From the Co-Chairs, June 2023June 30, 2023
Luis Baez Diaz, MD, was a giant in the field of oncology, particularly in Puerto Rico, where he founded the Puerto Rico Minority Underserved NCI Community Oncology Research Program (PRNCORP). Today, because of his efforts, over 18 communities on the island have access to cutting-edge cancer clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Dr. Baez Diaz was a leader in the conduct of NCI research, building the PRNCORP to have strong leadership as it continues to be a substantial contributor of minority Hispanic patients to clinical trials. For example, while Principal Investigator of Adult Clinical Trials, he facilitated participation in several landmark trials, such as TAILORx and E1199, both breast cancer treatment studies, and the NCI-MATCH precision medicine trial. He pioneered the development of Spanish translations of clinical trial materials for Spanish-speaking participants in NCI-funded trials—an effort that continues today.
He served on several NCI advisory boards and was honored by the National Institutes of Health. He was recognized on two separate occasions by the Puerto Rico state government's legislative branch for a record of achievement in the area of Science in the Community. In 2006, the Association of Community Cancer Centers in Washington, DC, recognized him with its Community Clinical Scientist Award. Further, the PRNCORP received awards from several oncology organizations for outstanding enrollment of patients to trials and for overcoming barriers to participation.
Dr. Baez Diaz completed his medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus and received training in internal medicine from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in San Juan, where he was a chief medical resident. He completed hematology and oncology training at New York University in New York City. Returning to Puerto Rico, Dr. Baez Diaz served as the chief of oncology at the VA hospital in San Juan for nearly three decades. During his career, he was chief of oncology at the San Juan City Hospital and chief of breast oncology at the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center. He coauthored numerous clinical trial publications through the PRNCORP.
Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Baez Diaz received much praise and recognition for his dedication to his patients and his mentorship to thousands of physicians, who trained under his guidance in internal medicine, hematology, and oncology. He was director of the hematology and oncology fellowship programs in the San Juan City and VA hospitals during his tenure and spent part of his time offering university courses. He firmly believed in clinical studies and recruited many medical residents and fellows into oncology and hematology in Puerto Rico. He encouraged his mentees to pursue innovative medical practices with scientific evidence for the development of better clinical care.
ECOG-ACRIN Group Co-Chair Peter J. O’Dwyer honored Luis Baez Diaz’s life and career at the General Session of the Spring 2023 ECOG-ACRIN Group Meeting in May, noting the key role Dr. Baez Diaz played in establishing oncology/hematology as a specialty in Puerto Rico.
Learn more about the Puerto Rico NCORP in this March 2021 Institution Spotlight.