Tufts Medical School remembers Professor Desforges
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 01:10
Professor Emerita Jane Desforges, formerly of the Tufts University School of Medicine, passed away at Lawrence Memorial Hospital on Sept. 7 at the age of 91.
Desforges was a distinguished hematologist and professor, particularly well known for her research on sickle-cell disease, anemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Dr. John K. Erban (M ’81) explained that Desforges’ research focused on hematopoiesis, the study of growth and development of normal blood cells. In the early ’70s, when Desforges was researching this topic, not much was known about the science of blood cells.
Desforges was also one of the leading women in her field at the time, Dean of the School of Medicine Harris Berman explained.
“I didn’t know her personally, but I do know that she was a professor at the Medical School at a time when it was still rare for a woman to hold that position,” he said.
Desforges, who was one of five women in her graduating class of 103 at the School of Medicine in 1945, became a member of the Tufts faculty in 1952.
Desforges was named a professor of medicine in 1972, and in 1992 was promoted to the rank of distinguished professor of medicine. She was also an associate editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, president of the American Society of Hematology and treasurer of the Board of Governors of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
In addition, Desforges was a recipient of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Her family and supporters created the Jane F. Desforges, M.D., Chair in Hematology/Oncology in recognition of her success in 2003.
Desforges was also a highly respected professor. In 1988, Desforges received a Distinguished Teacher Award from the American College of Physicians and was 13 times awarded the Outstanding Teacher Award at the Tufts School of Medicine.
Erban, who completed a mentorship with Desforges in addition to studying and working under her as a medical student, reflected on Desforges’ remarkable impact and legacy.
“I took the hematology course that she lectured in [while at the School of Medicine],” Erban said. “During school, as a student I worked in her laboratory for two summers because she was one of those so-called ‘triple threats.’ She had a laboratory, she taught, she had patients. At the time it was becoming less and less possible to do all three, but she was able to do that successfully.”
Erban explained that Desforges also worked beside him as an influential colleague. After completing his residency, he said, he became a fellow in the hematology program in which Desforges was a prominent member.
“The division was led by Dr. Robert Schwartz, who was the chief of the division, and Dr. Desforges was an eminent faculty member of the division at the time,” Erban said. “I knew her as well as a colleague until she retired in the early ’90s, so in each of those venues, I had the chance to learn from her.”