dr Nicholas J. Vogelzang, a world-renowned Las Vegas oncologist whose generous bedside manner and habit of giving patients his personal cell phone number endeared him to those in his care, has died.
He was 72.
Vogelzang’s death was announced Wednesday by the Southern Nevada-based Comprehensive Cancer Centers, where he served as chair of medical oncology. He died on Tuesday. No cause of death was given.
“DR. Vogelzang was a well-loved leader in oncology, Las Vegas, and in the hearts of every single person he touched in his professional endeavors,” said Jon Bilstein, executive director of Comprehensive, in a statement.
Notable medical career
The Comprehensive Cancer Centers announcement highlighted Vogelzang’s numerous achievements, including his leadership in bringing a “promising new therapy for patients with advanced prostate cancer, known as 177Lu-PSMA-617, to Las Vegas,” with one of his patients the first was in Nevada to receive treatment, among other standards in a long and storied medical career.
In a 2017 column by former review journalist Paul Harasim, a panicked patient of Dr. Vogelzang contacted Harasim to ask if the rumors about Vogelzang’s impending retirement were true. Harasim asked Vogelzang, who laughed at the suggestion and said he hoped to see patients for another 50 years. “Thank God,” said the patient, crying.
“He really cares”
In the same column, another grateful patient recalled that Vogelzang called her at 10pm one night to say a new drug could treat her rare stage 4 lung cancer. Other patients and their relatives also said the same thing, that they could call Vogelzang at night and on weekends.
“That’s the kind of doctor he is. He really cares,” patient Lysa Buonanno said at the time. “He gave out his cell phone and personal email address and told me to get in touch with him whenever I felt I needed to. What other doctor does that?”
Vogelzang has not only been featured in the Review Journal, but also in the New York Times, USA Today, the New England Journal of Medicine, 60 Minutes, and more. He began his career with a medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He completed his internship and residency at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and then completed a fellowship in medical oncology at the University of Minnesota, according to the Comprehensive Cancer Centers.
From 1982 to 2003 he was a faculty member at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he was also the Fred C. Buffet Professor and Director from 1999 to 2003.
Then he was director of the Nevada Cancer Institute from 2004 to 2009. He has also served on a variety of boards and committees, won numerous honors and awards, received rave reviews in online patient reviews, and was also a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Nevada, the Reno School of Medicine and the UNLV School of Medicine.
“One of those one in a million people”
But his life was not without its own hardships. He also had his own battle with cancer, specifically Hodgkin’s disease, in the 1980s. Radiation treatment, which damaged his neck, heart and thyroid, caused his torso to tilt forward, according to the Harasim column.
He also endured the loss of a child, open-heart surgery and his wife was diagnosed with sarcoma, a malignant soft-tissue tumor in her thigh, Harasim wrote.
“Those who have worked with Nick, or who may know him personally, understand that he is one in a million people,” wrote Dr. Charles D. Blanke in an August 12 column in SWOG (Southwest Oncology Group). The website of the Cancer Research Network, a cancer research network that includes over 12,000 people in over 1,000 hospitals according to its website. In his post, Blanke noted that Vogelzang had recently gone into hospice care.
“He’s always the smartest one in the room, but he doesn’t feel the need to let you know,” Blanke wrote. “He is warm, caring, professional and knowledgeable. And he’s a great doctor and researcher.”
When asked about his penchant for giving his personal contact information to patients, a rarity in the medical field, Vogelzang told the review journal in 2017 that he didn’t see it as a big deal.
“I believe in the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated yourself,” Vogelzang said. “I live my faith”