Pediatric transplant pioneer Jean Sanders built the Hutchinson Center’s and the nation’s pediatric transplant program
By Galen Motin Goff, Hutchinson Center science writer
When Dr. Jean Sanders retires later this month from the Hutchinson Center, hundreds of photos of former patients will go with her. Girls in ballet tutus, kindergarteners dressed up for the first day of school and grown-ups at reunions, decades after receiving hematopoietic stem cell transplants. Regardless of age, they are her “babies,” living legacies to a job done exceedingly well—for 37 years.
Sanders’ quest to eliminate cancer as a cause of human suffering and death shaped the treatment of pediatric transplant patients nationwide. She devoted her career to determining which transplant treatments work best in children, investigating the long-term health effects of stem cell transplantation, providing compassionate care, and teaching more than 90 doctors.
An online memory book is available for friends and colleagues to congratulate Sanders and share their experiences with her.
Her groundbreaking clinical research has advanced the field of pediatric bone marrow transplantation and improved the survival and quality of life for thousands of children who have undergone this lifesaving procedure.
“Jean is the person who built our pediatric transplant program,” said Dr. Fred Appelbaum, Clinical Research Division director. “She is the person who—probably more than any other single individual in this country—built the nation’s pediatric transplant program.”
Reflecting her unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life for survivors, Sanders has remained active with research and patient care after passing the director baton to Dr. Scott Baker in 2011.
She has been running weekly clinics for post-transplant pediatric patients living with chronic graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD), and has been working to advance understanding of GVHD, a serious complication of stem cell transplantation in which transplanted donor cells attack the recipient’s body.
In addition to authoring more than 300 scientific publications, Sanders has chaired multiple cooperative research group studies and served as adviser for many medical and scientific organizations including the Children’s Oncology Group, the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Institutes of Health. She also has received multiple honors for her work.
But as gratifying as it is to receive accolades and retire with a long list of accomplishments, Dr. Jean Sanders will take with her something far more important. She’ll take the knowledge that her life has enabled children all over the country to dance, to grow, to dream.
The proof is in the pictures.