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Remembering a leader

John Kersey, M.D.

The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota lost one of its most prominent and influential physician-scientists March 10 with the sudden death of John Kersey, M.D. He was 74 years old.

A native Minnesotan and a graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, Kersey dedicated his life to developing new treatments for childhood cancer. He founded both the University’s blood and marrow transplant program and what’s now known as the Masonic Cancer Center, which became a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center under his watch in 1998.

Kersey also led the team that performed the world’s first successful bone marrow transplant for malignant lymphoma in 1975. That patient is alive and well today.

“John was the driving force that helped the University of Minnesota become internationally recognized for excellence in cancer treatment and research,” says Aaron Friedman, M.D., dean of the Medical School and the University’s vice president of health sciences. “His enthusiasm for his work was contagious, and his passion for bringing people together to solve problems changed the way cancer research is conducted.”

And while his research successes were plentiful, colleagues say that Kersey’s generosity as a friend and collaborator set him apart.

“The world has been positively changed by John’s scientific, educational, and clinical contributions,” says Douglas Yee, M.D., who succeeded Kersey as director of the Masonic Cancer Center in 2007. “John provided mentorship and guidance to researchers around the world who will now carry on his legacy.”

To make a gift to the John H. Kersey Chair in Cancer Research in his memory, visit

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