Colleagues and former trainees describe Dr. Boxer’s career and his passion for mentoring. Dr. Boxer is the winner of the 2016 ASH Clinical Investigation Mentor Award.
Dr. Boxer is being recognized for his service as a research mentor, educator, and career advocate to several generations of trainees, who see him as a leader in academic pediatrics with a distinguished record of scientific achievement and commitment to training and mentoring. Dr. Boxer has focused on mentoring and fostering the career development of physician–scientists in pediatric hematology, and across disciplines and departments at the University of Michigan. Due to his insight and support, these individuals are now leaders in benign hematology, malignant hematology, solid cancer, and the thrombosis and hemostasis fields.
“The day I met Larry Boxer changed my life and set me on a path to a career and a field I truly love,” Linda M. McAllister-Lucas, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said, describing Dr. Boxer as an inspiration who has had a profound, long-lasting, far-reaching impact in the field due to his ceaseless efforts as a mentor.
Valerie P. Opipari, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the CS Mott Children’s Hospital in the University of Michigan Health System, also commented on Dr. Boxer’s influence on her career, recounting her first meeting with Dr. Boxer when she was a second-year pediatric resident training at McMaster University.
He invited her to present her research at the ASH annual meeting and, following her presentation, sought her out and congratulated her for the quality of the work she was doing, showing true interest in her long-term career goals. “I was so taken aback that such a leader in academic pediatrics would speak to me and be so encouraging of the importance of doing academic work as a resident,” Dr. Opipari said. “That introduction did not stop, he kept in touch with me over the next two years and, when I made my decision to pursue fellowship training in pediatric hematology/oncology, he was one of my greatest supporters as I searched for the best program for my career goals.”
Dr. Boxer served as the principal investigator on a long-standing pediatric hematology training grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which was funded continuously from 1991 until 2006, and was critical to the success of securing a Child Health Research Center grant from the NIH. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Severe Chronic Neutropenia International Registry in 1994, which monitors the clinical course, treatment, and disease outcomes in patients with severe chronic neutropenia, and is the largest collection of long-term data on patients with the condition in the world.
With his eye on innovation and supporting future physician–scientists, Dr. Boxer never forgot about the previous discoveries that led to the current state of knowledge in pediatric hematology/oncology. As an undergraduate, Dr. Boxer was a history major, and his trainees praised his knowledge of the history of his field. They admired how he incorporated a historic perspective in all of his discussions and teachings.
“His love of biomedical research and his sincere desire to serve as an expert mentor were so obvious to all of us trainees,” Dr. McAllister-Lucas said. “He created a spirit of caring, curiosity, excitement, and creativity within our division, and as a result, his trainees couldn’t help but get excited about the opportunity to make new discoveries and advance our field.”
Other colleagues attested to his care and concern for his trainees, and his effort to make time for each trainee to assure that he or she was meeting his or her career goals and succeeding to his or her greatest potential. Pavan Reddy, MD, Moshe Talpaz Professor of Translational Oncology and co-director of BMT and Hematological Malignancy Program, and interim chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Michigan, recalled, “Ever since I met Larry, he has taken a genuine interest in everything I do in my research, often having wonderful, thoughtful, critical – and always insightful and supportive – discussions on science. These conversations and support have helped [me] through dark days of paper rejections, funding woes, and moments of doubt and confidence.”
“In the midst of tremendous administrative, research, and clinical demands, Larry always took the time to get to know all of his trainees on a personal level,” Dr. McAllister-Lucas noted. “He possesses a warm and inviting presence, and he simply made it so much fun to be at work.”