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Harvard scientist launches Presidential Distinguished Lecture Series Dr. Folkman and President Cigarroa

October 2002

by Amanda Gallagher

Through trial and error, triumph and failure, Judah Folkman, M.D., unraveled one of the greatest discoveries in modern science: angiogenesis. The term refers to the formation and differentiation of blood vessels. Thirty years ago, scientists were skeptical of his ideas. Today, angiogenesis is a cornerstone of medical research.

Dr. Folkmanís perseverance, patience and incredible journey through discovery fascinated a packed auditorium Sept. 20 at the Health Science Centerís first Presidential Distinguished Lecture.

The event will become an annual tradition, designed to stimulate curiosity and share true greatness in science. "Through this lecture series, I hope to inspire the Health Science Center community to motivate our students and to mold our great scientists of tomorrow," said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president, in an address to the audience.

Dr. Folkman is the Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery and professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School, a surgeon-in-chief emeritus and director of the surgical research laboratory at Childrenís Hospital in Boston, and a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

In the early 1970s, he discovered cancer tumors needed their own blood supply for nourishment. He said the tumors actually recruited blood vessels in a process called angiogenesis. His findings now have major implications for cancer, heart disease, arthritis, endometriosis and macular degeneration.

Because his findings bridge numerous specialties, Dr. Folkman is an avid believer in uniting all health professionals for the common goal of helping humanity.

"This lecture series sends a message, from the very top, from the presidency, that the Health Science Center is trying to improve medical care in the community," Dr. Folkman said. "An institution can do that by teaching or by erecting new buildings, but this shows you can improve medical care by asking questions and doing research, and you donít have to do it in a lab."

Dr. Folkman has received hundreds of awards from the most prestigious national and international universities, medical organizations and public and private institutions. He has authored 338 peer-reviewed papers and 100 book chapters and monographs. He also served as a mentor to Dr. Cigarroa, who said Dr. Folkman is "one of the greatest teachers" he ever had.


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