by Meri Monsour
New Orleans Living Magazine
Dr. Adam Riker’s strong work ethic began at a young age, motivating him to graduate high school by age 16. Coming from a large, blue-collar family, Dr. Riker realized that joining the Army would be his only option for getting into college, so he enlisted, with his parents’ permission, and served three years before enrolling at the University of South Florida in Tampa. There he spent time working in a research lab, surrounded by many pre-med students, and, after graduating in just three years, he decided to enter the University of South Florida’s medical school.
Today, Dr. Riker is the Chief of Surgical Oncology at Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center, Department of Surgery. He completed his general surgery residency at Loyola University in Chicago, and also a three-year fellowship in surgical oncology at the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. Dr. Riker developed an immediate interest in the theory and clinical applications of human immunology and immunotherapy of cancer, which involves stimulating the body’s immune system to fight and eradicate a cancer. At the time, such concepts were not considered mainstream by many in the cancer research community; however, it has remained an active area of research for Dr. Riker in his clinical practice today.
During his time at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, he established a large clinical practice focused on treating patients with breast cancer and melanoma, and he developed a gene signature for the identification of metastatic melanoma, resulting in both a U.S. and international patent. He then transitioned to the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute in Mobile, Alabama, where he served as Chief of Surgical Oncology until, following Hurricane Katrina, he was recruited by Ochsner Medical Center to become the Medical Director of Cancer Services for the Ochsner Health System.
This past fall, he enthusiastically returned to New Orleans to serve as the new Chief of Surgical Oncology. He will also assist LCMC Health to develop a regional cancer program at the new University Medical Center. He is a senior member of the LSUHSC Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials and Cancer Research Program, and he is committed to bringing cutting-edge clinical trials here for cancer patients.
“Clinical trials for cancer patients will allow the UMC to be recognized as a regional resource for those patients in need of the latest experimental treatment options for their particular type of cancer.” explains Dr. Riker, who currently has several cancer clinical trials in place pertaining to breast cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) and melanoma to name a few. “We also work very closely with our cancer researchers at the Cancer Center, often able to translate their results into early phase clinical trials for our cancer patients seen at UMC,” Dr. Riker says. “The unique partnership between basic scientists and cancer clinicians is what truly sets LSUHSC and UMC apart from all other hospital systems in this region and state.”
Apart from his growing clinical practice, Dr. Riker is also tasked with building a nationally recognized cancer program through the development of multidisciplinary programs focused on the team approach to cancer care. His team of specialty-trained physicians and nurses meet regularly to discuss all aspects of a patients treatment plan and to develop a personalized approach to their treatment. Dr. Riker says that the overriding goal is to help LSUHSC, in partnership with LCMC Health and UMC, become one of the leading cancer centers in the region and establish the hospital as a true destination for cancer care, and he is working with other clinicians, researchers and senior leadership to make LSUHSC a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.
“Becoming an NCI-Designated Cancer Center will not be easy, with the goals and expectations from the NCI [being] quite substantial,” says Dr. Riker, who was part of this process of becoming NCI-designated at the Moffitt Cancer Center. “It usually takes about 10 to 15 years in order to achieve such a distinguished designation; however, I believe that the strong partnership between LSUHSC and LCMC Health/UMC will make such a goal obtainable.”
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MEDICAL SCHOOL: University of South Florida, College of Medicine, Tampa, FL
RESIDENCY: General Surgery, Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago, IL
FELLOWSHIP: Surgical Oncology, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Surgery Branch, Bethesda, MD