Dr. Jean Sanders is as busy as she has ever been after 36 years of tireless work on behalf of pediatric patients at the Hutchinson Center.
But don’t expect her to slow down as she hands over her administrative duties as director of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the Hutchinson Center. Those duties now will fall on Dr. Scott Baker, who said he is honored to follow a pioneer such as Sanders.
"Jean is one of the most well-known figures in the field of pediatric transplantation," Baker said. "She has made huge contributions to pediatric transplantation, has been a leader in the field, and it’s an honor and a privilege to take this position."
The Hutchinson Center also is honoring Sanders for her service this month at Legacy for Life, the 5 + Year Transplant Survivor Reunion.
For her part, Sanders is not ready to rest on her accolades. By giving up her administrative duties, she said she expects to have more time to concentrate on patients and research work.
"My patients don’t need to worry. I’ll still be taking care of them," she said. "I’ll be doing the same clinical work, taking care of my long-term patients and writing papers. I have a new paper that was recently accepted by the journal Blood, looking back at 30 years of aplastic anemia survivors."
What she finds gratifying: Many survivors are living productive lives. "These kids grow up and go on to have kids of their own," she said. The study included information on 152 patients, and she was personally involved in all of their transplants. Her next project will look at children who were treated for leukemia and where they stand 30 years later.
Two years ago, Sanders became the first recipient of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In all, she has authored more than 300 scientific publications and trained nearly 100 specialists in her field.
Her pioneering clinical research has been recognized multiple times for advancing pediatric bone marrow transplantation, and for improving the survival and quality of life of transplant recipients. Thousands of children have benefited from her medical expertise and research.
Baker said one of his main goals is to maintain the strengths of a program that has built a national reputation for its work.
The Center does 50 to 60 pediatric transplants each year. Baker said that transplantation could be an effective treatment for a variety of diseases that affect children.
"We want to consider different diseases that we’re not treating now with transplantation but where this type of therapy would be beneficial.
"And, of course, we also seek to be at the forefront of being able to utilize other methods of cellular therapies to treat cancer as well as diseases other than cancer, such as cardiac injuries," Baker said.
Also, much work remains to be done in the field of pediatric transplantation, he said. "We want to develop effective therapies to put patients into remission and make them eligible for transplants. And we want to develop effective strategies to prevent relapses after transplantation as well."