In Memoriam: Charles Bernard Carpenter

Today brought the sad news of the passing of Charles Bernard Carpenter over the weekend. Dr. Carpenter, or "Bernie" to his many friends, was a Professor at Harvard Medical School, one of the founding members of AST, and served as our 2nd President (1983-84). By my count, Bernie was directly or indirectly involved with training at least a half dozen AST past presidents and many, many past or current board members. His accomplishments over three decades at the helm of the Laboratory of Immunogenetics and Transplantation at the Brigham and Women's Hospital are legendary. Truly one of the giants of our field, he will be missed.

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Robert S. Gaston


I was privileged to be a fellow with Dr. Carpenter from 1980 until 1984. It was a wonderful experience and totally shaped me as a transplant scientist and physician. All of us could write pages about working for and being mentored by Bernie. He was inspiring at all levels. He was a marvelous human being who was always patient, kind, encouraging, positive and calm. No matter what you did wrong, he would simply cut right to the heart of the matter. I remember practicing my very first oral presentation for the ASN. I totally messed it up, stumbled around and went for 20 minutes instead of 10 minutes. At the end he just looked at me and said: "well, that could have gone better...needs a little more work". He was a remarkably critical thinker and we all constantly sought him out to sit down and review data, a new paper or speculate about why something happened mechanistically. His knowledge of the field seemed limitless to me. His office was dangerously filled to overflowing with stacks of articles from the floor to every surface, some 5 feet high, and he would pull articles from a stack by memory in the middle of a discussion to support a point in what always seemed like complete magic to me. Finally, he was genuinely enthusiastic about the science we were doing and that was inspiring and life changing. I can only hope that I instill faithfully some part of his mentoring, enthusiasm and class to my current trainees. Even 20% and I would consider myself a success. Bernie was in another league and I will remember and honor him forever.

Bob I'd like to share a letter I sent to Bernie last year. John April 15, 2010 Charles B. Carpenter MD Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School Dear Bernie, I am writing to thank you for your patient tutelage and wise counsel over these many years. I still recall the excitement of coming to Boston in the early 1980’s and interviewing for nephrology fellowship positions. When offers arrived from both MGH and BWH, it was an easy decision for me to choose your transplant research training program. The renal fellowship years, 1983-86, were without any doubt the most important of my medical training. There was a very clear sense that we lucky few were engaged in potentially transformative work that could catapult the emerging miracle of organ transplantation over the daunting hurdles of alloimmunity and guide it to save the lives of the desperately ill. I’m a little older and perhaps a little wiser, but that spirit of diligent inquiry in the service of patient care that you inspired in me and in all of your trainees, will remain with me for the rest of my life. For that as well as for all of the other valuable guidance you have given me, I am deeply in your debt. Most sincerely, John F. Neylan MD Senior Vice President, Biomedical and Regulatory Affairs Global Therapeutic Group Head, Renal, Cardiovascular, Endocrine, Solid Organ Transplant, and Fibrotic Disease

It is touching to read these posts from two of Dr. Carpenter's most accomplished mentees. While never having had the privilege of working directly with him, my passion for transplantation came from Dr. William J (Pat) Flanigan, a contemporaneous fellow with "Bernie" in John Merrill's lab at the Brigham. Pat returned home to Little Rock and started a transplant program in 1964. As his fellow in 1986, he often spoke fondly of Drs. Merrill and Carpenter, whose influence extended well beyond the hallowed halls they walked. I am confident that without the abiding influence of Merrill and Carpenter, I, along with many others, would never have discovered the meaningful career offered in the science and practice of transplantation. We must never take for granted that such inspiration is just part of the "ether."

I first met Bernie Carpenter at a closed conference of the National Academy of Sciences in 1963. Present also were the Brigham team (Murray, Merrill, & Harrison), David Hume from Richmond (formerly from the Brigham), Felix Rapaport from NYU, Jean-Francois Bach and a few notable others. I had written to John Merrill about potential future training in Nephrology with an emphasis on transplantation and immunology and during the conference breaks, it was Bernie who was filling me in on the complexities of human transplantation, mainly living-related and identical twin renal grafts at the time. The shocking reality of cadaveric renal transplantation was yet to come. In July 1965, I began my 2 year NIH Fellowship at the Brigham. There were nineteen Fellows in John Merrill's CardioRenal Division of the Department of Medicine, and a few cramped rooms where world-class research was supposed to be taking place. The Division was subdivided into Immunology, with Bernie the new junior staffer, Micropuncture, Physiology, Hypertension, & Dialysis (largely for acute renal failure). In the Immunology group, Dick Glassock had returned from the Scripps Clinic and Research Institute and was embarking on his classic description of recurrent glomerulonephritis in identical twin transplants (in the Path Dept.). Bill Braun was to study the proteinuria of human allograft rejection (in the Brigham Basement) and I was designated to set up a microvascular surgery lab and do rat renal transplant research (in the School of Public Health animal labs). Bernie was busy on his human Complement studies and was the Medicine Attending Staff person responsible for much of the care of transplant patients, yet he had to find time to get his new colleagues organized with space, supplies, and technical help. We four were JPM's Immunology sub-division. Bernie was our Senior, and were we ever glad. When I left in 1970, Bernie had it all to himself to manage and worry about. I still think with pleasure about the many ways we managed to continue to collaborate over the subsequent 25 years, the border notwithstanding. Bernie was a wonderful and bright colleague, helpful in extraordinary ways, be it a clinical issue on the Transplant Unit or in the Transplant Clinic, a lab technical or logistical problem, an interpretation problem of the literature, or lastly, a political issue within this huge and awesome Nephrology group. He was always around and available, smiling and cordial, and in the 6 years that I was associated with him, I never saw him lose his cool. A gentleman to the core. As our collective memory is a composite of whom we have known and respected, it is sad indeed to acknowledge the passing of a close and genuinely sincere colleague, a long-standing part of us. Outside his professional life he was a devoted family man and to Sandra, we wish you our sympathies and the fondest of memories of your husband during your grieving. Ron Guttmann

I too was proun to call Bernie a teacher and friend. I am not eloquent enough to express my respect and admiration as previous individuals have, but I would like to urge Bob Gaston and other board members to consider establishing an award or fellowship to honor and remember all of those qualitities that made Bernie such an extraordinary teacher, scientist, mentor and friend. Bob Ettenger UCLA Pediatric Renal Transplant Program

Splendid idea! We have already started exploring possibilities.

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