Dr. Lisa Filipovich—A Leader in Pediatric Immune Deficiency and Stem Cell Transplant—Died Peacefully

Dr. Alexandra H. Filipovich died in her sleep peacefully on May 18, 2020. She was 69 years old.

Filipovich—known to all as Lisa—was a leader in the field of bone marrow transplantation and pediatric immunology. Her career started in the early years of bone marrow translation, and she made several significant contributions to the field—including in the diagnosis and treatment of immune deficiencies, particularly hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). She held the Ralph J. Stolle Chair of Pediatric Immunology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, served as leader of the immunology program at the University of Minnesota Medical School and was president of the Histiocyte Society, an international research organization.

Filipovich was born in 1951 in Minneapolis to Ukranian refugees Katherine and George Filipovich, according to her obituary. She only spoke Ukrainian when she began school, and when asked what her name was, she said “Lesia,” a familial diminutive. Her teachers decided to call her Lisa, and from there it was history.

In her youth, Filipovich was valedictorian, yearbook editor, cheerleading captain and homecoming queen. She met her husband Marc in high school and the two were married for 48 years. She attended Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts before attending the University of Minnesota Medical School. She completed her residency in pediatrics, and following fellowships in immunopathology and pediatric immunology, she became a professor at the university’s medical school.

She joined Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1996, where she directed the immune deficiency and histiocytosis program and established the diagnostic immunology laboratory. Her leadership put the hospital in the national and international spotlight, making Cincinnati Children’s one of the best hospitals for the treatment of HLH. Filipovich herself is regarded as a key leader in the definition of diagnostic testing and treatment of HLH.

As a researcher and scientist, Filipovich was extremely successful, but she was also praised for the personal care she gave to her patients and their families. Her patients fondly remember her, creating life-long connections with many patients and their families, many of whom wrote to the Filipovich family after her death about her kindness and humanity.

Outside of the hospital, Filipovich was a devoted wife and mother to her two sons Alexis and Philip. She and Marc—her high school sweetheart—loved to travel together and shared many adventures. She loved gardening, playing the piano, reading and she spoke four different languages.

Her family is planning a celebration of life for later this summer. They’re asking in lieu of flowers to consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Foundation or to the HLH Center of Excellence at Cincinnati Children’s.