When Joel Siner, MD ’53, names his heroes, it is a “Who’s Who” of School of Medicine educators and visionaries: Barry Wood Jr., Carl V. Moore, Neal S. Bricker, Oliver Lowry, Tom Hunter and many others. These are the individuals who inspired him as a student and taught him what it means to be a physician and a scientist.
He continues to find inspiration and take pride in the physicians and researchers at Washington University, including when he recently read a New England Journal of Medicine article outlining a landmark study on the acute myeloid leukemia (AML) genome. Written by members of the university’s Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network — including leaders from The Genome Institute — the article prompted Siner to make a significant gift to the institute for cancer genomic research.
“We will use the gift to support our new effort to sequence every new AML patient who comes to the Siteman Cancer Center,” explained study co-author and institute director Richard K. Wilson, PhD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine.
Lead author Timothy J. Ley, MD, the Lewis T. and Rosalind B. Apple Professor of Oncology and professor of medicine and of genetics, adds, “We are at a crossroads in cancer genomics. Although much of the work has been done to identify the key mutations that cause many types of cancer, the next daunting step is how to get this information into the clinic to help patients.
“The early work will have to be supported by visionary gifts like the one provided by Dr. Siner, since the major funding agencies need initial proof that the idea works before they will support the clinical application of genomics.”
As an internist, Siner was on the staff of Mount Auburn Hospital, the regional teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. He also served as the hospital’s president and as a member of its board of Trustees from 1982-87. From 1996-2009, he served as a member of the internal review board at Harvard University. Retired from private practice since May 2000, Siner now lives in Cambridge, Mass., with his wife, Elinor, a retired psychiatrist.