Dr. Stephanie Perkins named as S. Lee Kling Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Stephanie M. Perkins, MD, accomplished expert in pediatric and proton radiation, has been named the S. Lee Kling Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
As director of the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center at Siteman Cancer Center over the last three years, her exemplary leadership has cemented her position as a national leader dedicated to improving patient outcomes and advancing the proton therapy field.
Endowed chairs exist in perpetuity for a singular purpose: to provide outstanding physician-scientists with the resources to pursue groundbreaking research. Dr. Perkins focuses on the late effects of therapy on pediatric cancer survivors, contributing to ongoing breakthroughs that inform and reshape the understanding of radiation therapies. In her drive for excellence, Dr. Perkins continues the extraordinary legacy of S. Lee Kling, for whom the chair is named.
Honoring a Champion for Treatment Innovation
When prominent St. Louis philanthropist, civic leader, and former chairperson of the Foundation board S. Lee Kling was diagnosed with tumors in his eye, he was forced to travel coast-to-coast for the surgery and treatment he needed. The proton beam therapy he received allowed for precise tumor targeting far beyond what is possible with traditional radiation, allowing treatment without damage to delicate surrounding tissues in the head and neck.
Kling mobilized 200 friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and community members to make a transformative donation to the Foundation meant to bring this technology to St. Louis. As a result of Kling’s dedication, the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center opened in December 2013, and the S. Lee Kling Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology was established.
His inspirational commitment was not taken lightly. The center that bears the Kling name is the first single-vault proton center in the country. In addition to housing the world’s first compact proton beam accelerator, for which physician-scientists developed global quality standards and patient protocols, the proton center holds a second unit equipped with pencil-beam scanning technology, the most advanced form of radiation therapy available.
Making Huge Strides Through Visionary Leadership
When the installation of this second unit was completed in June 2020, the transition from passive scatter proton therapy to pencil-beam proton therapy required new training, workflow redevelopment, and patient care coordination under Dr. Perkins’ astute guidance as center director. Even as FLASH (ultra-high dose rate) radiation capabilities were introduced in 2022, Dr. Perkins designed and implemented novel processes to advance clinical care while still maintaining a robust research mission and expanding clinical trials for proton therapy patients.
Her path of distinction has been paved with accolades since she completed her residency in radiation oncology in 2010 as chief resident at Washington University School of Medicine. As the residency program director for Radiation Oncology from 2012 to 2022, Dr. Perkins was instrumental in growing the program while drawing top applicants, ultimately joining only three other faculty members in department history to be named Teacher of the Year twice. As the current chief of pediatric radiotherapy service at Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Dr. Perkins manages the care of all children requiring radiation therapy.
Dr. Stephanie Perkins will be formally installed as the S. Lee Kling Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Spring 2024.