Kenneth Norris, Jr. (left) discusses plans for USC Norris Hospital with G. Denman Hammond. (Photo/Courtesy of the Keck Medicine of USC Photo Archive)

It is with sadness that we note the recent passing of Dr. G. Denman Hammond, at the age of 97.  

Dr. Hammond had a distinguished career as a faculty for the University of Southern California, was highly influential in the establishment of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, and served as its Founding Director. He first joined the faculty at the School of Medicine in 1957 as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1960, and then professor in 1965. His research focused on childhood leukemia and other pediatric malignancies.

From 1960 to 1971, he served as Head of the Division of Hematology-Oncology at Children’ s Hospital, Los Angeles. From 1971 to 1985 he served as an Associate Dean in the School, and in 1971 also became the Founding Director of the USC-Norris Cancer Center and later Research Institute.  Dr. Hammond directed the final phases of the Cancer Center’ s planning and construction, and coordinated the efforts of USC’ s basic and clinical cancer investigators in developing the Center’ s research and care programs.  At the time he was quoted as saying “The essence of a cancer research institute is the intermix of physicians trained to provide very sophisticated diagnosis and care, who can translate basic research findings into better prevention,  detection, or treatment methods. It may take several generations before better information, passed on to the public, can help prevent the many deaths from cancer that occur each year.”   

Donald Feinstein, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, adds that, in fact, “Without Dr. Hammond, there may never have been a USC Norris Cancer Center, and the founding grant money for the Norris would have gone to Harvard.” (See the links below for more on the real story behind the founding of the Norris.)

During this same period of time (1968–1992), he served as Group Chairman of the Children’ s Cancer Group. Dr. Hammond was a member of a number of prestigious local, national, and even international professional societies and held important leadership positions in a number of these.  Further, he served on editorial boards of cancer journals and NIH study sections, held important leadership positions in the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute, and chaired several NIH panels, most notably  as the Presidential appointee to the National Cancer Advisor Board of the NCI as Chairman of the Committee on Cancer Centers from 1975–78 and Chairman of the Committee on Construction from 1979–80.  Dr. Denman Hammond retired from the Keck School of Medicine on June 30, 2006, and has served as an Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics.  

For more information on the history of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Hammond was interviewed in July 2007 by Keck School Dean Emeritus, Allen Mathies, as part of the USC Living History Project.  Dr. Hammond’s contribution to the cancer center was detailed in in the USC Living History Project interview with Gordon Cohn, the first public relations director for the cancer center, in minutes 34 through 43.