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Dr. Rachel Buchsbaum named the Dr. Jane F. Desforges Chair in Hematology/Oncology


Rachel J. Buchsbaum, MD is the Associate Chief Medical Officer for Graduate Medical Education at Tufts Medical Center in downtown Boston, MA.Please join us in congratulating Dr. Rachel Buchsbaum upon her being named the Dr. Jane F. Desforges Chair in Hematology/Oncology.

Dr. Rachel Buchsbaum is the Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, Fellowship Program Director, a physician at our Breast Health Center and an Associate Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the role of the tumor microenvironment in breast cancer biology, with a specific focus on how intra-cellular and inter-cellular signaling pathways are affected in the co-evolution of breast cancer and the breast cancer microenvironment. She has won a number of awards including Boston Magazine’s “Top Doctor” in 2017, the Milton O. and Natalie V. Zucker Clinical Teaching Prize for Innovation in Medical Education, the Diane Connolly-Zaniboni Scholar in Breast Cancer Research honor, and more.

“This is an incredible honor and it’s hard to fully express what it means to me.  Dr. Desforges was one of my earliest teachers when I entered training in Hematology and Oncology – easily the most intimidating but also the most inspiring.  However the awe in which we held her was nothing compared to how her patients saw her.  I had the opportunity to care for one of her patients years after she had retired – while he was close to the end of his own life he still spoke about her with reverence and gratitude, as did all of us who were blessed to have the chance to work with and learn from her,” Dr. Buchsbaum said.

Dr. Desforges: a pioneer in hematology and a compassionate physician

Dr. Jane F. Desforges was an authority on anemia, specifically sickle-cell disease and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“During more than 60 years in medicine, she had a profound and lasting impact on generations of physicians,” wrote Harris Berman, dean of the School of Medicine, in an email to the Tufts community.

Dr. Desforges with a microscope

Dr. Desforges was only one of five women in a class of 98 men at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and was an inspiration to countless members of the Tufts community, particularly women in medicine. After graduating from medical school, where she met her husband, Gerald Desforges, M45, she was a resident at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) for two years and then went to Salt Lake City to work with the noted hematologist Maxwell Wintrobe. She returned to Boston City Hospital and held a variety of roles, including assistant director and then associate director of the Tufts Medical Service and Tufts Hematology Laboratory, and eventually director of laboratories.

Dr. Desforges joined the Tufts faculty in 1952, and rose through the ranks. She was promoted to professor of medicine in 1972, when she joined the then New England Medical Center (now Tufts Medical Center). She was appointed distinguished professor of medicine in 1992 and distinguished professor emerita in 1994. Dr. Desforges was a respected member of the medical center’s hematology division, where she mentored fellows while running a laboratory and a vibrant clinical referral practice. She provided second opinions and care for patients from throughout New England and across the United States while teaching Tufts medical students in her well-known hematology course.

A master clinician and a compassionate physician, Dr. Desforges expected unfailingly rigorous thinking from her students and fellows, and only the most dedicated care for her patients. She had a reputation as an extraordinary teacher: she received the Outstanding Teacher Award for 13 consecutive years. She also received a Distinguished Teacher Award from the American College of Physicians in 1988.

As a teacher, her goal was to get medical students and research fellows to appreciate problems in a logical way, to understand how things work and why. “My students would say I emphasize logic, common sense and focusing,” she said in a 1989 interview published in the Tufts medical alumni magazine. “I stress not doing 20 different tasks at once. If we’re not parsimonious, then we’re not thinking,” she said.

A member of the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Desforges served as president of the American Society of Hematology and treasurer of the board of governors of the American Board of Internal Medicine. From 1960 to 1993, she was associate editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2001, she received the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In her honor, her family and many supporters established the Jane F. Desforges, M.D., Chair in Hematology/Oncology in 2003.