by Brenda Maceo
Stephen J. Forman, M.D., has been named as the first holder of the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (HCT). Kathleen McNamara, a former patient of Forman’s, and her husband, Francis “Chip” McNamara, established the chair with a $2.5 million gift to City of Hope.
Kathleen McNamara presented the chair to Forman at a May 13 black-tie gala feting the 30th anniversary of the HCT/Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) program. More than 600 guests attended the event at the Beverly Regent Hotel.
An international leader in the field of stem cell transplantation and hematologic malignancies, Forman has led City of Hope’s HCT program since 1987, having joined the program as a staff physician in 1978. In its first year, the program performed six transplants; now more than 500 patients are transplanted annually. Forman and his team of clinical and laboratory scientists have contributed significant advances in the field of hematopoietic cell transplantation.
Forman and his collaborators recently received a $15.3 million, five-year National Cancer Institute grant to develop novel stem cell transplant therapies for patients with cancers of the bone marrow and immune system. Among his many distinctions, he is principal investigator of the City of Hope / Lymphoma Specialized Program of Research Excellence Grant. He is the program leader for City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Hematologic Neoplasia Program and is a staff physician in the Division of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research and director of Clinical Research in the Division of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology in Beckman Research Institute.
It was in his role as physician that he first met the McNamaras.
Kathleen McNamara was diagnosed with a blood disease in 2003. After receiving the diagnosis, the McNamaras, who live in Kentucky, began research on medical centers that treated her condition. Their search brought them to City of Hope—and Forman, who determined she had acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML.
McNamara’s transplant took place in June 2003, using bone marrow cells donated from her sister.
“The City of Hope program was excellent, greatly facilitating as normal a family life as possible,” she said. “There, they would just tell us that children are not allowed. It was so hard on my kids, not knowing on any given day whether their mom was going to live or not. Everyone at City of Hope understood this and went out of their way to help facilitate the ability for my kids to be with me.”
During her 40-day hospital stay, McNamara said she also got to know the team of nurses and physicians, including Forman. “He is such a super person,” she said. “He is extremely intelligent, yet humble and human.”
McNamara said that the sum of their experience at City of Hope inspired them to endow the distinguished chair that Forman will now hold.
“We have had good fortune in life, and we would not have had such success if people who went before us hadn’t participated in trials and given both their time and their money,” she said. “This is our chance to give something in return to Dr. Forman and the entire program, including future patients.”
Michael Friedman, president and chief executive officer of City of Hope, expressed his pride in Forman and the HCT team. “They have kept City of Hope in the scientific forefront of transplantation and hematology and they continue to expand the boundaries as they investigate HCT for autoimmune diseases—even combining HCT with gene therapy to fight HIV and lymphoma,” Friedman said. “This program is a shining example of an exciting new era of translational research under way at City of Hope. And Steve Forman is eminently deserving of this distinguished endowed chair.”
Saturday’s gala event netted significant funds for City of Hope. Laurie Konheim, a member of the BMT Development Committee whose mother was treated by Forman, and Rick Meyers, a former patient, co-chaired the event. Karl Blume, M.D., a founder of the City of Hope BMT program, spoke at the event, along with patient Brian Nutt. Two of Forman’s patients provided musical entertainment: Robin Frasier sang with her vocal group, the Mansfield Singers, and Paul Fried, an internationally known musician, performed on the flute.
After a heartfelt introduction by his son, Keith Forman, Stephen Forman told attendees that their support humbled him. In his remarks, Forman thanked his family, friends, colleagues, St. John’s College, philanthropic donors and City of Hope. He shared the story of unique individuals who deeply influenced his life and career: the physician colleague who first led him to City of Hope and the promise that it held for patients of leukemia and lymphoma; a special patient whose uplifting spirit and care of other people while she was ill touched all of those who came to know her; and his children’s grandmother, who bravely chose to go through cancer treatment at City of Hope at age 85, and now at age 96, is “still celebrating life’s cherished moments.”
The gala’s grateful patients, colleagues, donors, families and friends all echoed the sentiment, celebrating their own cherished moments at the event.