Nancy Russell, DrPH, Steps Down as Co-Chair of the Research Committee

Nancy C. Russell, Dr. PH (Doctor of Public Health), who has served as Co-Chair of The Mastocytosis Society (TMS) Research Committee and of the TMS Patient Survey Committee, has retired from The Mastocytosis Society as of January 1, 2017 after nine years of extraordinary service to our members.

This is Dr. Russell’s most recent retirement, as she ended her formal employment in 2008 after 27 years of experience in cancer research, primarily at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her positions there included Senior Health Education Specialist with an education component of the Integrative Medicine Program, where she provided latest research findings to the Medical Director concerning herbal, nutritional, and other adjunct therapies implemented on behalf of patients in the clinic. She created and recommended reviews of complementary medicine research for the MD Anderson Cancer Center website. As an Assistant Epidemiologist in the MD Anderson Department of Medical Informatics, she retrieved and analyzed information on the Tumor Registry Database, and also assisted clinical investigators with proposed study designs. In addition, Dr. Russell held Assistant Epidemiologist positions in the Department of Patient Studies, and the Department of Radiotherapy. She has also been a registered massage therapist.

Dr. Russell received her BA Degree from the University of Oklahoma, and did post baccalaureate work in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and physics prior to receiving a Master of Public Health at the University of Texas in Houston. She completed a Doctor of Public Health Degree with work in advanced epidemiology, cancer epidemiology, and public health nutrition. Dr. Russell was introduced to TMS through a fellow epidemiologist at MD Anderson, Geoffrey Giacco, who also happens to be Valerie Slee’s brother! This dedicated and energetic scientist contributed to the work of the TMS Research Committee in myriad ways, but her most impressive contribution was to put in thousands of hours, starting in late 2009, to author, design, and analyze the TMS Survey to give mast cell disorder patients a collective voice to share their disease presentations, experiences and opinions with physicians and other patients. The Board and members of TMS owe her, Susan Jennings, PhD, Co-Chair of Research, and her fellow Survey Committee members a debt of incalculable gratitude for undertaking the Survey Project in a very tight time frame. What started out as a huge project snowballed into six more years of data analysis, writing papers, and presenting posters, all based on the Survey Project. The first paper was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology In Practice, and the second paper will be submitted soon.

In addition to the survey work, Dr. Russell reviewed grant proposals submitted to TMS for funding, reviewed journal articles for our patients, wrote for our newsletter, The Mastocytosis Chronicles, and was a positive presence at medical conferences and TMS Annual Meetings, where she was also a speaker. Dr. Russell was also great to travel with, very easy to be with, and full of fun. We were so very, very lucky to have someone of her attention to detail, caliber and professionalism volunteer for us, and she will be missed very much by everyone at TMS! We wish her a wonderful retirement in the sweet Texas hills!

A personal note from Susi Jennings, Dr. Russell’s Research Co-Chair: Over the last 7 years that I have been involved with TMS as Co-Chair of Research, Dr. Russell has been absolutely wonderful and such a pleasure to work with! She has been kind, generous, extremely intelligent, quick-witted, forgiving, dedicated, and a ton of fun to work and travel with. As you can probably imagine, pouring over details of data points, denominators, statistics, journal reports of various research studies and the like can sometimes be at least a bit draining. But, I have to honestly say, Dr. Russell helped make working on TMS’ Patient Survey a fun and educational experience for me. We reviewed research proposals and wrote articles together, commiserated on computer malfunctions, discussed medical and scientific presentations and spent what feels like it must have been thousands of hours hunting for just the right words to express whatever point we were trying to make. For all those years, she has been the perfect roommate during TMS conferences and medical association annual meetings, being easy-going, considerate, tolerant and always enjoyable to spend time with. A majority of the work we performed on the Research Committee was done side-by-side, always in consultation with each other and debated when needed until we came to an agreement. I couldn’t have hoped for a more amazing research partner and I thank Dr. Russell with all my heart for her dedication to our mast cell disorder community and her enduring friendship.

Article By Valerie M. Slee, RN, BSN, TMS Chair

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