"When I think of Bucknell, what I remember most is the friendships I made that have lasted my whole life."
Tom Spitzer '70, director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, has spent his medical career treating people with blood cell cancers like leukemia and multiple myeloma.
Treatment often involves bone marrow transplantation, which, in turn, can be complicated by kidney failure, making these same patients candidates for kidney transplantation as well. To mitigate organ rejection, transplant patients usually must take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives, increasing their susceptibility to infections and secondary cancers.
Recently, Spitzer and his colleagues at Mass General have made national headlines for their groundbreaking work in helping transplant patients overcome potential organ rejection while taking immunosuppressive drugs for only a few weeks.
The work, which involves transplanting a donor kidney and bone marrow at the same time, involves breakthroughs in transplant therapy as well as our understanding of immune tolerance.
Says Spitzer, “It is gratifying after 30 years of clinical practice to treat and potentially cure diseases that were incurable when I began.”
After graduating with a degree in biology from Bucknell, Spitzer continued his studies at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. “Bucknell prepared me very well to think outside the box,” says Spitzer. “I learned to think conceptually and keep an open mind scientifically, not just learn by rote. I found that I was better prepared than many of my peers when I got to medical school.”
For Spitzer, the “Bucknell family” is a literal notion.
His son, Matthew Spitzer ’03, majored in political science and practices law in Manhattan. “When I think of Bucknell, what I remember most is the friendships I made that have lasted my whole life,” says the elder Spitzer. “I don’t think people who are at Bucknell now realize the pride we alumni take in the school. I recently heard basketball coach Pat Flannery ’80 on the radio saying he was looking for ‘good ball players with SAT scores above 1,300.’ It made me so proud to be from a school with such high standards.”
Posted Spring 2008
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