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Beloved Las Vegas oncologist Nicholas Vogelzang dies at 72

Dr. Nicholas J. Vogelzang, a globally renowned Las Vegas oncologist whose generous bedside manner and habit of giving out his personal cellphone number to patients made him beloved by 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 was the chairman of medical oncology. He died Tuesday. No cause of death was provided.

“Dr. Vogelzang was a beloved leader in oncology, Las Vegas and in the hearts of every single person he touched in his professional endeavors,” Jon Bilstein, Comprehensive’s executive director, said in a statement.

Storied medical career

The announcement from Comprehensive Cancer Centers noted Vogelzang’s many achievements, which included his leading efforts to bring a “promising new therapy for those with advanced stage prostate cancer known as 177Lu-PSMA-617 to Las Vegas,” with one of his patients becoming the first in Nevada to get the treatment, among other benchmarks in a long and storied medical career.

In a 2017 column by former Review-Journalist columnist Paul Harasim, a panic-stricken patient of Dr. Vogelzang called Harasim to ask if the rumors of Vogelzang’s impending retirement were true. Harasim asked Vogelzang, who laughed at the suggestion and said he hoped to be seeing patients for another 50 years. “Thank God,” the patient said, weeping.

‘He really cares’

In the same column, another grateful patient remembered Vogelzang calling her at 10 p.m. one night to let her know that a new drug could treat her rare Stage 4 lung cancer. Other patients and their family members also said the same, that they could call Vogelzang on nights and weekends.

“That’s the kind of doctor he is. He really cares,” the patient, Lysa Buonanno, said at the time. “He gives out his cellphone and personal email and told me to get in touch with him whenever I felt I needed to. What other doctor does that?”

Vogelzang, in addition to being written about in the Review-Journal was also featured 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 did his internship and residency at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center and then completed a fellowship in medical oncology at the University of Minnesota, according to Comprehensive Cancer Centers.

From 1982 until 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 until 2003.

Then from 2004 until 2009 he was the director of the Nevada Cancer Institute. He also served on a multitude of boards and committees, won numerous honors and awards, earned gushing praise in online patient reviews and also served as clinical professor of medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and UNLV’s School of Medicine.

‘One of those one in a million people’

But his life wasn’t without its own hardships. He also had his own battle with cancer, specifically Hodgkin’s disease, in the 1980s. The radiation treatment, which damaged his neck, heart, and thyroid, caused his upper body to tilt forward, according to the Harasim column.

He also endured the loss of a child, open heart surgery, and his wife being diagnosed with a sarcoma, a malignant soft-tissue tumor in her thigh, Harasim wrote.

“Those who have worked with Nick, or perhaps who know him personally, understand that he is one of those one in a million people,” Dr. Charles D. Blanke wrote in an Aug. 12 column on the SWOG (Southwest Oncology Group) Cancer Research Network’s website, a cancer research network that includes over 12,000 people at over 1,000 hospitals, according to its website. In his post, Blanke noted that Vogelzang had recently gone into hospice care.

“He is always the smartest person in the room but doesn’t feel a need to inform you of that fact,” Blanke wrote. “He is warm, caring, professional, and knowledgeable to a fault. And he is an amazing physician and researcher.”

Asked about his penchant for giving out his personal contact information to patients, a rarity in the medical field, Vogelzang told the Review-Journal in 2017 that he didn’t see as that big of a deal.

“I believe in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Vogelzang said. “I live my faith.”

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com or 561-324-6421. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.