Curt Ingraham Civin '70

Doctor of Science

In 1993, you met a three-year-old named Bryan whose lethal abdominal cancer had spread to his bone marrow. His prospects were dire, but using your new invention, a device that harvests bone marrow stem cells, you were able to treat Bryan with chemotherapy, then return the purified cells to his body. Bryan is now 11—a normal, active kid. Your invention won you the 1999 Inventor of the Year award from the Intellectual Property Owners Association, as well the gratitude of parents and children.

A combination of research skills and intense concern for the quality of young lives led you to the field of pediatric oncology. As director of that department and the holder of the King Fahd Professorship at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, you have continued your own research, while also teaching small groups of medical and postdoctoral students. Meanwhile, caring for patients continues to be a source of satisfaction, a valued stimulus and a reality check.

As Amherst honors you—a member of the great Class of 1970—we can claim credit only for the liberal arts part of your education and for equipping you, as you once put it, with "most of the basic science" that enabled you to survive (as you said) the rudimentary "trade school" education you encountered at Harvard Medical School.

The invention that won you acclaim also pulled you into the difficult area of patent law. Recognizing your discovery as a potential gold mine, a biotech firm infringed on Johns Hopkins' patents for your discovery. Six years later, a federal court ruled in your university's favor. But you have continued to keep your eyes on the human prize. In Fighting Chance, a book with photographs of the brave children and families whose lives you have touched, you write, "There is nothing more beautiful than seeing research lead to cures."

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