The Hematologist

July-August 2011, Volume 8, Issue 4

Joel M. Rappeport, MD (1939 - 2011)

Bernard G. Forget, MD

Published on: July 01, 2011

Joel Rappeport, MD, died on January 16, 2011, after a long illness. He was an internationally recognized expert in bone marrow failure and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Born June 10, 1939, in Quincy, MA, Dr. Rappeport graduated from Yale College in 1961 and received his medical degree in 1965 from Tufts University School of Medicine. He was a resident on the Tufts Medical Service at Boston City Hospital from 1965 to 1967. Following service in the Air Force Medical Corps, he was a resident at the Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, from 1969 to 1970.

Dr. Rappeport completed a fellowship in hematology at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital where he joined the faculty, rising to associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in 1984. At Harvard, Dr. Rappeport and colleagues David Nathan, Fred Rosen, and Robertson Parkman were pioneers in the development of bone marrow transplantation for neoplastic and non-neoplastic hematologic disorders. This collaborative effort at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and the Children’s Hospital Medical Center led to the first bone marrow transplantation unit in New England. He and his team were the first to do marrow transplants on patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria and on those with congenital hematopoietic and metabolic defects such as Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, Kostmann syndrome, and severe Gaucher disease. These successes paved the way for the use of hematopoetic stem cell transplantation to treat the more prevalent hemoglobinopathies, sickle cell disease and b-thalassemia major.

In 1987, Dr. Rappeport moved to Yale School of Medicine where he served as professor of medicine and pediatrics. Dr. Rappeport founded the allogeneic bone marrow transplantation unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, which he directed from 1987 to 1997. He served as the director of the Sickle Cell Disease Program at Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1998 to 2003.

Dr. Rappeport fulfilled numerous advisory roles, including member of the Board of Directors and president of the New England chapter of the Aplastic Anemia Foundation of America, trustee and vice-president of the central Connecticut chapter of the Leukemia Society of America, and member of the Committee on Educational Affairs and an Education Program chair of ASH. He published more than 120 original scientific articles, reviews, and book chapters.

Dr. Rappeport was widely recognized as an outstanding clinician, teacher, clinical investigator, and mentor; he was greatly admired for his tireless dedication to his patients. His teaching and dedication to his patients earned him the Yale medical house staff Teacher of the Year Award in 2000-2001. He directed the hematology course for second-year medical students at Yale. He taught by example, imbuing his students, residents, and fellows with respect, responsibility, and a love of medicine and hematology. He had a highly developed sense of humor and irony that he put to good use on behalf of patients, prodding everyone to go the extra mile on their behalf. Nurses and aides were devoted to him. His total commitment to his patients inspired and empowered all who followed his lead.

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