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News & Press: In Memoriam

In Memoriam- Dr. Robert J. Hartzman

Wednesday, November 6, 2019   (0 Comments)
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In Memoriam

Robert J. Hartzman, MD

It is with great sadness that we write to let ASHI know of the passing of Dr. Robert Hartzman. Dr. Hartzman died on October 31, 2019 of complications from heart bypass surgery. Dr. Hartzman was a leader of the C.W. Bill Young Marrow Donor Recruitment and Research Program and a strong advocate of the U.S. program for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation with unrelated donors. He is survived by his wife Marlene and son Alex.

Dr. Hartzman received his medical degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971 where he had the opportunity to work with Dr. Fritz Bach, a pioneer in transplantation immunology and genetics. Hartzman's research led to a mixed leukocyte culture assay system which gained wide-spread use in evaluating cellular immune function. This assay system allowed Hartzman to develop primed lymphocyte defined (LD) assays and to distinguish HLA-D from HLA-DR. Following his residency, Hartzman was inducted into the Navy where he performed clinical bone marrow transplants at the National Naval Medical Center and Naval Medical Research Center. The transplantation genetics program that he began in 1973 at the Naval Medical Research Center developed over time into the C.W. Bill Young Marrow Donor Recruitment and Research Program. The Department of Defense Donor Center which he led for many years now lists over 1 million volunteer donors and has supported 8,075 transplants.

As a retired captain in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, Dr. Hartzman served as the director of the Navy's Bone Marrow Research Directorate. He was instrumental in obtaining support to transition serologic typing to cost-effective high volume DNA-based typing of HLA for newly recruited registry volunteers through the National Marrow Donor Program in 1992 and to extend this higher resolution typing method to evaluating matching in the NMDP's donor-recipient cell repository. The repository database of now almost 40,000 donor-recipient pairs has supported numerous research studies defining the criteria for donor selection, the latest published this year in the journal Blood with Hartman as coauthor. Hartzman's support and intellectual contributions also helped the NMDP develop their search algorithm, HapLogic, which has improved the ability to rapidly identify potentially matched donors for patients with fatal blood diseases. Hartzman also help found The Radiation Injury Treatment Network, medical centers with expertise in the management of victims of radiation exposure.

Dr. Hartzman's long term advocacy and intellectual input has resulted in substantial improvements in the outcome of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. We mourn his loss.
--submitted by Carolyn Hurley and Jennifer Ng