11.25.19

Remembering Dr. Robert Hartzman, A Leading Force in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant

Dr. Robert Hartzman, a leading force in unrelated hematopoietic stem cell transplant, died on Thursday, Oct. 31. He was 75.

Hartzman received his medical degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971 where he worked with Dr. Fritz Bach, a pioneer in transplantation immunology and genetics. It was in Wisconsin that Hartzman researched cellular therapy. His work led to a mixed leukocyte culture assay system which gained widespread use in evaluating cellular immune function, according to an obituary submitted to the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (ASHI).

After his residency at Dartmouth, Hartzman went to the Navy and performed clinical bone marrow transplants at the National Naval Medical Center and the Naval Medical Research Center. This program developed into the C.W. Bill Young Marrow Donor Recruitment and Research Program, which now has more than one million volunteer donors and has completed more than 8,000 transplants. After his retirement, he continued to serve as the director of the Navy's Bone Marrow Research Directorate. 

Not only has his work with the C.W. Bill Young Marrow Donor Recruitment and Research Program had huge impact; his support to the field has helped thousands. According to ASHI, he was "instrumental in obtaining support to transition serologic typing to cost-effect 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." That database has almost 40,000 donor-recipient pairs and has supported numerous research studies.

He also helped found the Radiation Injury Treatment Network, which provides comprehensive evaluation and treatment for victims of radiation exposure or other marrow toxic injuries. 

"It is difficult to overstate Dr. Hartzman's role in the field," said representatives of CIBMTR in a statement. "His influence helped deliver significant life-saving breakthroughs. ... Hartzman was a husband, father, physician, scientist, and naval officer who felt a duty to humanity and our country. Many considered him a force of nature, noting that he wouldn't take 'no' for an answer." 

He is survived by his wife Marlene, his son Alex and many other family and friends. 

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