John “Jack” Harris Saiki, MD, Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology Division, lived the history of modern-day oncology with a career spanning 44 years. In the early days of his career, with the support of a grant from the federally funded New Mexico Regional Medical Program, Dr. Saiki developed a leukemia-lymphoma treatment program at a time when no formal medical oncology program existed in New Mexico.
Dr. Saiki received his medical degree from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 1961. Dr. Saiki served 2 years with the U.S. Public Health Service in Fort Defiance, Arizona. He completed his residency and fellowship training in medicine and hematology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and his oncology training at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Saiki joined the faculty at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in 1970.
Dr. Saiki was subsequently awarded funding from the National Institutes of Health in support of his membership in Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG), which ushered in cancer clinical trials and new cancer treatments for New Mexicans. In 1973, Dr. Saiki received Board certification in medical oncology, the year the subspecialty of medical oncology was first created.
Dr. Saiki served in various capacities while on the faculty, including Clinical Director of the University of New Mexico Cancer Center and Principal Investigator for the SWOG. In addition, Dr. Saiki served on the Board of Trustees for Blood Systems for 29 years and was Medical Director of the Presbyterian Hospice Program.
Dr. Saiki was the recipient of numerous awards for teaching and service, including the Laureate Award by the New Mexico Chapter of the American College of Physicians and nine Khatali Awards, an honor bestowed by each graduating class of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in recognition of teaching excellence. A celebration of Dr. Saiki’s life was held at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center. ■