Dr. Stephen D. Nimer Receives Bone Marrow Foundation’s Dr. E. Donnall Thomas Award

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has received the Dr. E. Donnall Thomas Award from the Bone Marrow Foundation. The award, presented at the Foundation’s “Be a Lifeline” Gala in New York City on April 1, celebrates the groundbreaking work of the late Dr. Thomas, who pioneered bone marrow transplantation, and honors medical professionals who exemplify his achievements in the field.

Nimer was given the prestigious award for “his dedication to spending his entire career advancing the research and improving the lives of patients with cancer.” An expert in treating leukemia and lymphoma, Nimer has conducted extensive clinical and basic science research in the treatment and genetic basis of adult leukemia and bone marrow failure states, defining the regulatory mechanisms that control the production of blood cells and exploring ways to improve the treatment of blood based cancers. He has authored more than 200 scientific publications and has received numerous awards for his research, including the prestigious Irma T. Hirschl Career Scientist Award.

The presentation of the Thomas Award was made by Amy Yonamine Roper, a former patient of Nimer’s who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 1991. At the time, bone marrow transplantation was brand new, but held the possibility of being a cure. Roper, the mother of two children ages 11 and 9, and her husband decided to try the bone marrow transplant. She was urged to see Dr. Nimer, who was on the faculty of UCLA School of Medicine.

The meeting changed her life. Roper’s brother Paul turned out to be a perfect match for the transplant.

“I am very honored and extremely humbled to accept this award, and receiving this award from Amy is so very special for me especially given the incredible progress we’ve made in cancer research,” said Nimer.

This past February marked 23 years since her transplant, and Roper is now a grandmother of three, sharing the major events of her and her children’s lives with Nimer over the years. “Each milestone that they’ve achieved has been an affirmation and so very rewarding to me,” he said.

Christina Merrill, Executive Director of the Bone Marrow Foundation, thanked Nimer for helping her get the foundation started in 1992-1993 by offering her advice and sharing connections.

The Gala was emceed by journalist and author Jonathan Alter, himself a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor who acknowledged the impact of Nimer’s research in the field and who thanked Nimer for helping him get through his transplant. The co-emcee was Savannah Guthrie, co-host of NBC’s Today show.

Nimer, who is also professor of medicine, and biochemistry and molecular biology, serves on the editorial board of several medical journals, and on the medical boards of the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation, the Bone Marrow Foundation, and other foundations. He is also the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research and Chairman of the MDS Foundation.

Thomas’s development of bone marrow transplantation is a breakthrough that stands among the world’s most significant medical advances and earned him the 1990 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Thousands of patients with a variety of cancers and blood disorders are saved every year as a result of his work and those who continue the work in transplantation.

In his acceptance speech, Nimer described Thomas as “a hero to everyone in this field, and particularly to those of us who had a chance to learn directly from him. His vision, dedication, and perseverance have made stem cell transplantation the curative treatment that it is today.”

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