Dottie Thomas: The 'mother of bone marrow transplantation'

Dottie Thomas: The 'mother of bone marrow transplantation'

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Dr. E. Donnall and Dottie Thomas
Married in 1942
Boston apartment
Sea bass
Hunting
Stockholm, Sweden
Press conference
Gatekeeper
PNW rivers
Transplantation bible
A life well lived
Dedication
Jose Carreras
Memorial
Former patients
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They touched lives around the world

Dr. E. Donnall and his wife and longtime collaborator, Dottie Thomas, presided over the 2005 patient reunion, which drew more than 300 former patients back to the Hutch. They all posed for this photo, which was used for a Quest magazine cover.

"Getting together with patients 20 or 30 years later is the greatest thrill I've ever had," said Don Thomas, whose pioneering work saved thousands of lives around the world.

Jim Linna / Quest magazine file

Married in 1942

Don and Dottie Thomas were married in December 1942 in the chapel of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, on a Sunday afternoon. The ceremony was “quiet and simple, just as Don and I had desired that it be,” said Dottie in her family photo scrapbook.

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A modest beginning

Dottie and Don relax in their modest apartment in Boston in 1943, Don Thomas' first year at Harvard University medical school. Dottie is seen knitting socks for the Red Cross to give to soldiers during WWII.

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A fishy tale

Don and Dottie hold a 9-pound sea bass that became the subject of a long-running family argument. Dottie wrote in her family photo scrapbook, "It was caught the very first morning we fished at Padre. I still say it is mine, since I hooked it and thereby made the rest of the story possible. But Don insists it is his because he landed it." 

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An avid sportswoman

Don and Dottie Thomas, from the time they were married until their later years, spent many family vacations hunting and fishing. Here, Dottie is seen hunting with her shotgun. 

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From Seattle to Stockholm

Dottie and Don Thomas in Stockholm, Sweden, where he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1990 for his groundbreaking work in bone barrow transplantation.

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A noble accomplishment

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas takes questions from the media at a press conference at the Hutch Oct. 8, 1990, following the announcement of his Nobel Prize. He is flanked by his wife, Dottie, and former leukemia patient Tammy Terkla, who was Thomas' first long-term bone marrow transplant success story.

Thomas later remarked that while winning the Nobel was a thrill, his real thrill came from meeting long-term transplant survivors such as Terkla. (Note: Terkla, later known as Tamara Jo Roberts Stevens, passed away from complications of breast cancer in 2010.)

Dan Hallett / Quest magazine file

The gatekeeper

Dottie was something of a gatekeeper at the Hutch. She controlled access to Don Thomas so he could focus on his work. “You didn’t get to Don without getting through Dottie first,” said Judy Campbell, part of the original Fred Hutch transplant nursing team.

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A great team in and out of the office

Don and Dottie Thomas were avid lovers of the outdoors and fished many of the waterways of the Pacific Northwest.

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Dottie the editor

Dottie Thomas, who orignially majored in journalism, spent many hours proofreading the first two editions of the seminal bone marrow transplantation reference book, "Hematopoietic Cell Transplantiation," of which her husband, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, was an editor.

Here she's holding the 1,500-page second edition, published in 1999, which included a 33-page index.

 

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A close personal and professional bond

A life well lived — and well loved. Dr. E. Donnall and Dottie Thomas pose for a 1991 Quest magazine photo that reflected their close personal and professional relationship.

R. J. McDougall / Quest magazine file

A fitting tribute

Don and Dottie Thomas share a kiss at the dedication of the E. Donnall Thomas Clinical Research Laboratory Building on the Fred Hutch South Lake Union campus on June 4, 1998. Nancy Greenwood Vehrs, Dr. Bob Day, Dr. Fred Appelbaum and Dr. Lee Hartwell (left to right) look on. The portrait of Don and Dottie graces the building's entrance.

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Celebrating 'birthdays'

The "Spanish tenor," José Carreras, who had a bone marrow transplant at the Hutch in November 1987, became a lifelong friend of the Thomases and a supporter of Fred Hutch research. Here, he is shown giving Dottie a present at her 90th birthday party in Seattle in the fall of 2012, the same year Carreras celebrated the 25th anniversary of his transplant.

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Saying goodbye

Dottie Thomas atttends the Nov. 3, 2012 memorial at Fred Hutch for her husband, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, along with (left to right) Dr. Fred Appelbaum, Aleana Waite, Dr. Rainer Storb and Travis Gallatin.

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Surrounded by love

Former patients gather around Dr. E. Donnall and Dottie Thomas in front of the new Thomas Building immediately following the dedication ceremony on June 4, 1998.

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