​Remembrances of Eddie Reed

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Memorial gifts in memory of Dr. Eddie Reed may be made through the AACR Foundation.

"The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) mourns the loss of Dr. Eddie Reed, a great leader and mentor in the field of cancer research and patient care. We were fortunate to have Dr. Reed as an Active member of the AACR for 27 years, and we were able to count on his expertise and passion, particularly in the area of cancer therapeutics and health disparities among minorities. We are grateful for the contributions he made while serving as a member of the AACR Board of Directors, and most notably in his role as Chair of the Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council. Our lives have been enriched by knowing him, and in his memory we will carry on the great work he has inspired us to do."

--Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (h.c.), Chief Executive Officer
American Association for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, PA

"We are greatly saddened by the loss of Dr. Eddie Reed. He was a pioneer and leader in cancer research and was a respected mentor and role model for minority investigators. His scientific and clinical contributions have been critical to cancer health disparities and his legacy will live on in future generations of cancer researchers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds."

--Chanita Hughes-Halbert, PhD, MICR Council Chair,
Medical Univ. of S.C. Hollings Cancer Ctr., Charleston, S.C.

"Within Dr. Eddie Reed’s life story are key nuggets of professional wisdom from which the next generation of young research scientists can embrace and adopt to serve them, as they seek to make their marks in the laboratory and clinical settings of cancer research. The first is: endeavor to find a willing and capable mentor. A few others are: learn and master the tools of your field and profession, while nurturing your 'Why'–your reason, your passion for pursuing your career path. Learn how to navigate, network, and collaborate–to develop viable working relationships with colleagues (they may become your future co-authors), particularly with both junior and senior researchers actively productive in the field. Avoid working in isolation or in a restrictively 'siloed' environment. The other side of this proverbial coin is: to have the nurturing mentor(s) and collaborators who help crack-open doors… you must be prepared to enter."

In the midst of my post-doctoral training with Dr. Eddie Reed, he had me learn and perform nearly all aspects of my research experiments alone (he was always close and watchful), giving me room to learn from both mistakes and successes–which eventually made me an expert in several DNA repair research techniques (skillsets) in our lab. Many of our colleagues and collaborators benefitted. I have since nurtured others, and continue to do so. I encourage young researchers– undergraduate, graduate, post-doctorate fellows, etc.,–to become the expert."

--Ricardo Parker, PhD, National University, Costa Mesa, Calif.

"When I first met Dr. Eddie Reed many years ago as part of the Intercultural Cancer Council, he had a strong reputation as a researcher. He was an innovative bench investigator in cancer-cell DNA repair, and a humanitarian with a broad vision for public health to eliminate cancer health disparities. I got to know him personally and learned that he was an even better person—someone who put other people first and always encouraged those around him to be great. For example, he kindly nominated me for the AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Memorial Lectureship in 2010. He also went out of his way to engage junior researchers and facilitate their development into successful cancer researchers, because he knew this was the best way to advance our field. He was a great man and leader with a giving spirit. He is gone before his time, but he leaves behind a legacy of groundwork to solve disparities and a pipeline of people he encouraged and touched throughout the years. I am truly honored to have known him."

--Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas

"Having known Eddie since fellowship days, this is a very sad moment. He was an excellent physician scientist, a generous human being, a dear friend to many, and he will be deeply missed."

-- Jeffrey William Clark, MD, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass. 

"Eddie Reed was a fantastic human being as well as a clinician. He was a remarkable, empathetic person who resonated and listened to his patients. No question or topic was out of place with him. As he was my late husband's clinician at the NIH Clinical Center, I got to know him well in his clinical role. As an investigator at NCI, I had the privilege to know him as a fine researcher with compassion and energy.

We have lost a favored son of NIH at a young age of 60 years. He will be missed."

--Michele R. Forman, PhD, MSPH, Univ. of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 

"I was deeply saddened to receive the news of Eddie's passing. Eddie was so incredibly dedicated to cancer research and supporting minority cancer researchers. As soon as I met him it was clear that he was an exemplary human being, worthy of emulation in every way. His opinions on a variety of topics were always candid, clear-minded, and incisive—yet he had a way of delivering them in an unassuming and good-natured way. He was kind, thoughtful, diligent, caring, and full of integrity. We will miss him very much. I am grateful that I had the chance to get to know him."

--Levi A. Garraway, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass. 

"What a loss of talent, expertise, integrity and passion! Eddie Reed was a thoughtful and unassuming leader, who made important contributions in cancer research and in supporting advances in the science of minority health and health disparities. He was a trailblazer in so many ways. His passing is so untimely, yet, the committed life he led and his accomplishments will always inspire us."

--Jean G. Ford, MD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. 

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear colleague, my mentor and friend Dr. Eddie Reed.

I recall my beginnings with Eddie as his first post-doc in 1989, when he was a tenured scientist and Chief of the Ovarian Cancer Section in Building 10 at the NCI. Eddie was incredibly brilliant and, while he was a taskmaster, I was trained, nurtured and mentored under his leadership and keen scientific insights (and Frieda Bostick, our technician's, support). Over my 5 years with him – and beyond—our lab grew (in number and publications) and flourished as we carved out inroads to understanding cancer drug resistance associated with platinum-induced DNA damage and repair. Eddie opened his lab to many who have since made their own marks in the cancer field. Eddie also had a rock-solid moral compass, and was an enduring example of strength and resolve in the midst of troubled and challenging times. I am most appreciative of his counsel and long-standing friendship over these past years. I will miss him dearly. I offer my deepest condolences to Meenakshi Dabholkar-Reed, my ex-colleague and friend, and to Eddie's family."

--Ricardo Parker, PhD, National Univ., Costa Mesa Campus, Costa Mesa, Calif. 

"It was with great sadness that I learned that Dr. Eddie Reed recently passed away from cancer. I remember him well from my time in the Medicine Branch of NCI. He was a brilliant doctor and researcher. He had a great smile and a wonderful sense of humor, and was very well liked by both patients and colleagues. His death at an early age is a great loss for cancer research and he will be sorely missed by both his friends and the scientific community."

--Turid Knutsen, National Cancer Inst., Bethesda, Md. 

"For those of you who did not know Dr. Eddie Reed, you missed out on an opportunity to know a fabulous individual. This is not to say Eddie was perfect, far from it, but he was a down to earth human being that happened to also be highly intelligent. However, what made him even be more special was the way he interacted with people. There was no pretense about Eddie. What you saw is what you got. Our journey together began at the first Biennial Symposium on Minorities and Cancer in Houston, Texas in 1987. He was a fellow at that time just getting ready to join the faculty at the National Cancer Institute. As one the few African American board certified oncologists with a research background and I being one of the few tenured faculty members at a major cancer center, we gravitated toward one another. Over the years, I followed Eddie's career, providing advice when needed in a kind of mentor/mentee role while it matured into a colleague to colleague relationship, but more than that a true friendship. A friendship where we could say things to each other and still remain friends.

"When he left NCI to become the director of the West Virginia Cancer Center, he jumped right into increasing his involvement with the ICC, something he could not do while at NCI. And when Pamela Brown became chair of the ICC, Eddie was right there to support her. While at West Virginia, he suffered a tragedy no parent should ever suffer, the death of his only son. It had a profound impact on Eddie. And I believe that it may have had an impact on his decision to leave West Virginia. I know there were other factors, but to lose a son, and his only!!! I think his decision to leave West Virginia was the right one. But I don't think that he realized the political turmoil he was jumping into by applying for the position to direct CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention & Population Sciences. He asked for a letter of recommendation, saying that I was one of the few people he asked to provide such a letter. When he got the directorship, he then called to say, I now am in a position to better address the issues that the ICC and the Center for Research on Minority Health needs help in addressing. While at CDC he made good on his word.

"When he decided to leave CDC, I happened to be in Atlanta and had lunch with him. I know that politics again reared its ugly head in creating barriers. From what I knew of Eddie, he was not the type of person to go along to get along. He let me know that he was leaving CDC and was hoping to move to a place where he could get back to the area he was trained in. That institution was the University of South Alabama. However, I knew that Alabama was not going to be his last stop on his career path. So it was no surprise when we he called again to say he was considering a move back to NIH and becoming the first Clinical Research Director at the National Institute on Minority Health & Health Disparities. He thought the moving back to NIH would allow him to do more about addressing the health disparities gap in his quiet way. In fact, I thought that such a move would put Eddie in position to follow John Ruffin as the director when John stepped down. Sadly that was not. The disease he was trained to fight, Cancer, made that next step in his career path not to be.

"Because of that we all have lost a valiant warrior. For me, I have lost a dear friend who I never had to talk to on a daily basis to know that he was a friend and would be there. Who, after months or even years, I could pick up the phone and say, "Hi Eddie, it's me. How are you doing? I need your help." And I would know, if he could he would, no questions asked, and he knew he could do the same. I will never know why Eddie this time did not call. It is possible that may be he thought that there was little that I could do in this situation. I will never know. However, I will not dwell on the end, but his life and the contributions he made. As I said with Maya Angelou's passing, the legacy lives on in all of us who benefited from knowing this individual. God speed Eddie on your next journey."

--Lovell A. Jones, PhD, Texas A & M Univ., Corpus Christi, Texas 

"I originally met Eddie when I was a fellow at the NCI and Eddie came to work in Bruce Chabner's lab and the NCI. You could tell he was going to be a wonderful physician and investigator even at that point. He was bright, interested in learning, caring and wonderful to be around. Our oncology community will miss his presence."

--Kenneth R. Hande, MD, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Ctr., Nashville, Tenn. 

"As a a patient advocate I had the honor of 'listening to the wisdom' of Dr. Eddie Reed. He always made time for you with the upmost of interest and compassion. Myself and other participants in the AACR survivor and scientist program share our loss of this wonderful doctor, scientist and mentor. We will honor his memory through our shared advocate goals."

--Carmelita Austin-Schreher, ABC/African-American Community Health Group of the Central Coast, Santa Cruz, Calif. 

"Eddie was quite a guy and tenacious in his research. I had known him since he was a Fellow and interacted with him periodically through the years. A loss to the community, my condolences to his family."

  --William T. Beck, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago IL. 

"On May 28th, 2014, two pillars of the American intellectual community died. The first was Maya Angelou, the noted poet and actress, who left a permanent imprint in the arts and letters scene, ascending in a remarkable career from a most humble childhood to the highest echelons of literary achievement. On the same day, the cancer research community lost one of its brightest stars with the passing of Eddie Reed, M. D. His story, though less well known, is equally remarkable and a cause for both sorrow and celebration.  

"Eddie Reed was born in Hughes, Arkansas, one of 18 children raised on a farm in the Mississippi delta near Memphis, Tennessee. His early years were spent attending rural schools, playing the drums, and working on the farm, cutting cotton and tending the okra plants. For his parents, education was everything, and each child was expected to excel in school and attend college. The kids got the message. The Reed children became lawyers, doctors, scientists, and prominent agronomists. Eddie Reed chose medicine as his calling while a college student at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, and in the summer of his sophomore year, 1972, came to the National Cancer Institute to work in my laboratory. For the first few weeks, 18 year old Eddie from rural Arkansas said very little. His silence at first caused me concern. Was I failing as a teacher and mentor? Over the summer, it was apparent that he was taking it all in, getting his bearings, listening attentively, and learning his way around the lab. He was a model student! We became friends.  It became clear that he was absorbing everything we offered (enzyme kinetics, drug metabolism, chromatography). He had outstanding talent at the bench, where he did his experiments carefully and with an uncommon focus on detail. He loved the complexity and logic of cancer therapeutics, and the challenge of understanding how these drugs worked, and came back for additional summer sessions throughout college. With my encouragement he set his sights high and was accepted to Yale Medical School, where he chose to do his thesis on allopurinol pharmacokinetics back at NCI. After completing his residency at Stanford, to our great joy, he officially joined NCI as a medical oncology fellow in the "Class of 1981". The early '80's brought an outstanding collection of fellows to that venerable institution. Neal Rosen, Ed Sausville, Nancy Davidson, Carmen Allegra, Chris Berg, Gino Bottino, Ron Steis, Jeff Clark, Marcia Browne, and Steve Averbuch were among his colleagues in the fellowship during those years. Eddie worked as a fellow with Miriam Poirier, an expert on DNA repair in the carcinogenesis laboratories at NCI and became a fixture in the pharmacology group at NCI. For the next 19 years, he followed his passion for understanding the role of DNA repair in determining response and toxicity related to the platinum drugs, rising to the position of Chief of the Clinical Pharmacology Branch.

"Eddie's work was among the first to implicate DNA excision repair as a determinant of response, and he offered the further insight that NER capacity was shared by host and tumor as a function of genetic polymorphism, a concept that now rests on solid grounds. He became an authority on the treatment of ovarian cancer, filed patents for paclitaxel regimens in that disease, and regularly contributed to many  primary textbooks in the cancer field. He was an honest reviewer and critic: I remember, 'Bruce, Bruce, wait a minute. You don't really understand the point.' Very few ex-fellows were that blunt with me, but more often than not, he was right. In all, 300 peer reviewed publications, many book chapters, and editorials testify to his long and productive career in the laboratory and in the clinic.

"His second passion was assuring access to cancer care for underserved communities. During the last 13 years of his work, he had the opportunity to lead programs deeply immersed in issues of equity and access to care. In 2001 he became the Director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at the University of West Virginia in Morgantown, and recruited a talented staff of young oncologists. In 2005, he accepted the prominent position of Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Centers for Communicable Disease in Atlanta, a national program responsible for the support of many projects related to cancer screening and prevention in minority and underserved communities. He fought for a continuation of these programs during a period of retrenchment and left the CDC a frustrated man. In 2008, he returned to the South to become the Clinical Director of the Mitchell Cancer Center at the University of South Alabama, joining his long time NCI colleague and friend, Michael Boyd. All the while he continued both his clinical work on ovarian cancer, his participation in national and international scientific meetings and national co-operative group activities, committee service with the National Toxicology Center, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the Food and Drug Administration, and of course his own laboratory work, most recently investigating the regulation of DNA repair by the hedgehog pathway.

"Eddie Reed's personal life was centered on his son Edward, a talented and handsome young man who died tragically at age 23 when his car was hit by an intoxicated driver. Through these difficult times, he had the constant love and support of his wife of 20 years, Meenakshi Reed, also a scientist who was his devoted companion in the laboratory and at home.

"In 2013 Eddie Reed returned to NCI as the Clinical Director of the newly created National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities, a second opportunity to influence the course of cancer care for the underserved on a national scale. The program moved forward slowly, as NIH tried to find funding for the much needed effort. Before the year's end, he suddenly became ill with symptoms related to a primary hepatocellular carcinoma, a tumor for which he had no underlying risk factors. Through a long and painful period of unrelenting tumor progression, he continued to work, write, and communicate with friends. My wife, Davi-Ellen and I saw Eddie and Meenakshi on a number of occasions, and witnessed his courage and strength throughout this ordeal.

"He was a magnificent person, generous, loyal, and a man of great pride and integrity. He remembered birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, and always made the comforting phone call when our lives were troubled by illness or other stresses.  For many years, I have believed that my greatest personal satisfaction, aside from patient care, was derived from sharing my own career with the many magnificent fellows, men and women, who have taught me so much about science and life, have made me proud, and have caused me on many occasions to shed tears of joy and sadness. In every way, Eddie Reed was one of those cherished fellows, an unforgettable friend, scientific colleague, and member of my family." 

-- Bruce A. Chabner, MD, Massachusetts General Hosp. Cancer Ctr., Boston, Mass.