Friday, May 24, 2013

Attracting the brightest, and saying goodbye to the best: Farewell to Claire Pomeroy

Dr. Claire Pomeroy, Dean of the UC Davis Medical School, receiving her proclamation at her final CIRM Board meeting
I’m never bored at our Board meetings. There’s always something fascinating going on, and this time was no exception. I’m not just talking about the fact that at our meeting this week the Board approved $36 million in funding to lure six of the top stem cell researchers in the world to California. Those researchers won’t just be bringing their brains and their ideas, in many cases they’ll be bringing world-class support staff too. Just another example of how we are helping make California the global leader in stem cell research.

Nor am I talking about the Board approving a $6.37 million award to Sangamo BioSciences to help fund research that will hopefully result in a clinical trial for a promising new treatment for beta-thalassemia – a potentially deadly blood disorder.

You can read about both of those in our news release.

But perhaps the most memorable moment of Thursday’s meeting was the heartfelt farewell that the Board gave to Dr. Claire Pomeroy, who is stepping down after nine years. She is leaving to become President of the Lasker Foundation.

Dr. Pomeroy is the Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences at UC Davis and Dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine. She is also an expert in infectious diseases and a professor of internal medicine and microbiology and immunology. But in saying goodbye to Dr. Pomeroy the word that came up most was “beloved.”

Vice Chair Sen. Art Torres said: “in all my years in Sacramento I never saw anyone as beloved as you. Your compassion and expertise and integrity made you someone everyone loved.”

Board Chair Jonathan Thomas said she really helped him when he first joined the stem cell agency, calling her “a great colleague and a great counselor.”

Patient advocate Judy Roberson said “you dream big, work hard and are courageous” and that because of her unswerving devotion to funding research into currently incurable diseases she had “taken so many people from hopeless to hopeful.”

Dr. Pomeroy thanked her colleagues on the Board for their support and encouragement saying: “I look back on the last 9 years and I have learnt so much about a field of medicine that didn’t even exist when I was in medical school. And I learned it here, in public, with you, about an approach that could change the face of medicine.”

Dr. Pomeroy ended by thanking the patients and patient advocates, saying: “they are the reason why we do this. And one day, when we announce cures, we will all be able to stand up and say that we were part of it, together.”

She will be missed, but her legacy and her impact on all that we do will live on.

K.M.

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