Dr. Eugene Shenderov ’05, renowned oncologist and Chernobyl survivor, visited with Brooklyn College students hoping to inspire the next generation of cancer scientists.

It was clear when Dr. Eugene Shenderov ’05 was a student that he was destined for the stars. He was a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, class valedictorian, president of the chess team, three-time letter-winner in men’s tennis, and director of the Brooklyn College Emergency Medical Squad—and maintained a 4.00 GPA.

And then there were the awards, the most prestigious being the 2005 Rhodes Scholarship, an honor that, at the time, put him in the company of only one other Brooklyn College student.

Today, his vita is even more exhausting: a renowned physician-scientist who conducts clinical trials on cancer therapies, co-founder of an East Baltimore clinic that’s attempting to address healthcare disparities, founder and president of a company developing novel diagnostic tests for allergies, and an assistant professor of oncology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Last week, hosted by the Brooklyn College Cancer Center—CommUnity Outreach Research and Education, (BCCC-CURE) he came back to his alma mater to talk to students, a visit that he said nurtured his own keen interest in the “cycle of life” and of academia.

“It feels great to be back on campus,” he said, after spending the morning meeting with students, visiting labs, and then giving a lecture, “Cancer Immunotherapy: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times,” in the library. “I definitely see myself in the students. It’s not like I came from a place where I knew where my life was going to take me. When I was born, I was on one continent, and when I was going to college, I was on another.”

A native of Ukraine, Shenderov fled the country with his family when he was five years old, seeking asylum in the West and treatment for the leukemia he had developed after the fallout from the infamous 1986 nuclear explosion at Chernobyl. The family landed in New York, and after years of cancer therapy, Shenderov had found his drive.

“Being a cancer survivor is a huge motivation. I wouldn’t be alive if people hadn’t been working on therapies for cancer, and I feel like the fact that I survived and I’m in this field, I can pay it forward,” said Shenderov, who serves as a mentor to Brooklyn College students who spend a summer at Hopkins with The Stacey Garil Womack and Michael Garil Memorial Internships. The fund was created by Brooklyn College Foundation trustee Bernard H. Garil ’62 and his wife, Ethel.

The good doctor encouraged the students to find a mentor and urged them not to be shy, recounting stories of his own persistence with would-be advisers, a tactic he says gave him an edge. Now, he’s compelled to repay it in kind.

“I have to mentor the next generation,” he said. “These students are going to be the ones who realize the next big advances. They’ll partner with mentors who have tools to give them, but they’re the ones who will use those tools to really unlock everything. It’s the cycle of life.”