In Memoriam: William E. Harmon, MD

I have invited my colleague Richard Fine to share a remembrance in honor of Bill Harmon's passing. An AST Past-President and respected member of the field, Bill will be missed by many.

Richard N. Fine, MD

On May 29, I lost a personal friend, and the field of transplantation lost a pioneer in pediatric transplantation.

Bill Harmon was a giant in the field of pediatric nephrology. After completing his training in pediatrics and pediatric nephrology in 1978, Bill joined the faculty Boston Children’s Hospital in the Division of Pediatric Nephrology led by Warren E. Grupe. Actually, in his final year of fellowship, he was appointed the first Director of the Hemodialysis Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital. This appointment led to his life-long interest in the treatment of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in children.

Bill Harmon www.williamharmonmd.comBill’s accomplishments until his untimely death at the age of 72 involved education, research, patient care, and administrative leadership. He was truly the Renaissance man.

Bill was the penultimate educator – whether teaching medical students, residents, or pediatric nephrology fellows at the bedside or in the dialysis unit, or traveling the globe to educate colleagues worldwide on the latest strategies to optimally manage children requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. If you put pins in a map of the world indicating all the countries where Bill lectured, it would demonstrate few empty areas. One of his greatest legacies is the more than 65 pediatric nephrology fellows he trained at Boston Children’s Hospital over a 38-year period. These individuals have leadership roles in pediatric nephrology at many of the most prestigious institutions in this country and worldwide.

Research was a passion for Bill. In the early 1990’s, Bill joined the leadership group of the North American Pediatric Renal Transplant Cooperative Study (NAPRTCS) and was instrumental in changing the direction of the organization from a data-collection registry to a clinical trials cooperative. This led to many seminal projects which changed the clinical care of children with ESRD. With the sudden death of Amir Tejani in 2002, Bill assumed the helm as president of NAPRTCS and guided the organization during difficult financial times to expand its efforts in clinical trials and to become the premier clinical trials organization involving children with ESRD.

The care of children with kidney disease, especially those with ESRD requiring dialysis and kidney transplantation, were Bill’s top priority. He thrived seeing critically ill children recover to the extent that they could return to an excellent quality of life following successful kidney transplantation. Bill involved himself in many governmental organizations to assure that children with ESRD were given a priority in any guidelines or legislation to be enacted. He made sure pediatric needs were heard.

Bill had a leadership role in many academic societies, most notably the American Society of Transplantation. He served on the Board of Directors as a Counselor, Secretary-Treasurer, President- Elect, President, and Past-President over a 9-year period when the organization was undergoing maximal growth and establishing itself as the premier transplant organization worldwide.

In his 2003 AST presidential address, Bill said, "transplantation isn’t about a single hero, but a group of heroes. We’ve come a long way but there are still huge obstacles to surmount and huge discoveries to be made by new heroes." On May 29, we lost one such hero. Bill’s subtle humor, keen intellect, and engaging personality will be missed by all with whom he interacted.

You can visit his obituary for additional information. We encourage you to share your memories of Bill or sentiments on his passing in the comment area below.

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Just arrived in Boston today and learned of Bill's untimely demise. Beyond what Richard wrote from a Peds perspective, Bill, to this adult nephrologist, was a tireless advocate for all of transplantation in general, and the AST in particular. I came of age in the AST at a time when Bill Harmon's leadership was evident in so many areas, and his insight and passion for the field motivating the rest of us to follow his example. A life well lived; Bill will be missed.

Richard Fine, in his inimitable way, has beautifully captured the essence of Bill Harmon, an authentic pioneer in the field of pediatric nephrology. Amir Tejani, another giant in the field of pediatric nephrology, was instrumental in introducing me, an adult transplant physician, to Bill and I have admired him from near and far. We can all serve Bill’s legacy best by doing the utmost for our patients.

I am shocked to hear of Dr. Harmon's passing. As one of the Clinical Research Coordinators working with him and his team at Boston's Children Hospital, I had a wonderful opportunity of learning from him. Dr. Harmon made tremendous impacts in my professional and personal life. He was very gracious in sharing his knowledge, time, and expertise in clinical practice and research. I will never forget his kind words, attentive composure, and wisdom he shared when we visited children and their families. Dr. Harmon will definitely be missed.

I was a former trainee under Bill from 1995-1998. He was my teacher and mentor. After that he was my collaborator and friend for another 18 years. He could inspire loyalty like few could. Many of his past trainees count him as perhaps the single most important professional influence in our lives. Bill was incredibly intelligent and tremendously hardworking, plus a fiery champion for children, all with a uniquely poignant sense of humor.

I first met Bill around our CMV Immune Globulin studies in Boston in the early 1980's. I was really just entering the field of transplant ID and CMV. He was a remarkably low key individual for someone so accomplished and given the politics of multicenter trials in Boston at that time among many institutions, he was a great champion of our studies. He was a fantastic person, humble, charming, and gracious. I am shocked and saddened by his death.

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