In memory of Professor Valery Savchenko. January 8, 1952 – July 25, 2021
Alexander D. Kulagin, Rüdiger Hehlmann, Robert Peter Gale, Axel R. Zander, Boris Fehse
Accepted 05 August 2021
Russian hematology has lost an esteemed leader, Professor Valery G. Savchenko who died suddenly on 25 July 2021. He was an outstanding physician, scientist and researcher. He headed the National Medical Research Center of Hematology, was Chief Hematologist of the Russian Health Ministry, President of National Hematology Society and Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. For many years he was responsible for advancing hematology in the USSR and later Russia.
Valery Savchenko was born in the Ukraine on 8 January, 1952. After graduation from the 2nd Moscow Physical and Mathematical School at Moscow University in 1969, he studied medicine at the 1st I. Sechenov Moscow Medical Institute graduating with distinction in 1975.
His life in medicine and research was devoted to hematology. In 1980, he completed his residency and postgraduate studies at the Department of Hematology and Intensive Care at the Central Institute of Postgraduate Education where he presented his MD thesis: Pathogenesis and treatment of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Thereafter, he joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor. In 1988, Dr. Savchenko moved with his mentor Prof. Andrei I. Vorobiov to the Research Centre for Hematology where he was appointed Head of the Hemoblastoses Chemotherapy and Bone Marrow Transplantation Department. In 1993, he presented his doctoral thesis: Modern strategy for acute leukemia therapy.
Dr. Savchenko was awarded the title of Full Professor in 1996. In 2011, he assumed the position of Director of the Hematology Research Centre, now National Medical Research Centre for Hematology of the Russian Ministry of Health. In 2004, he was elected a Corresponding Member of Academy of Medical Sciences, and in 2013 he became Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
His inquiring mind, encyclopaedic knowledge and analytical thinking allowed him to excel in many areas of modern hematology. Prof. Savchenko was able to set forth distinct scientific tasks and resolve them, suggesting the direction of diagnostic evaluations and developing therapy algorithms.He evolved therapy protocols for acute leukemias and bone marrow failure disorders, headed the first Russian multi-centre studies, and, along with Prof. Boris Afanasyev, established and advanced hematopoietic cell transplants in the USSR and Russia.
Prof. Savchenko lead many studies in molecular genetics, biology, physiology of hematopoiesis, cytogenetics and transplant immunology and edited the Russian national guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of blood diseases. He had many pupils, several of whom are now leaders of hematology in Russia. Prof. Savchenko advised 30 PhD and 14 doctoral dissertations. He held or co-held 14 patents. He was very concerned with hematology education in Russia, was permanently engaged in educational activities and participated in interdisciplinary conferences.
Prof. Savchenko was Editor-in-Chief of Hematology and Transfusiology and on the Editorial Board of several academic journals including Therapeutic Archive, Hematology. Transfusiology Eastern Europe, Cellular Therapy and Transplantation, and Biological Products. Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment.
Prof. Savchenko was a member of the World Committee of the International Association for Comparative Research on Leukemia and Related Diseases (IACRLRD) which he joined in the early 1990s on invitation by Prof. Rolf Neth and was on the World Committee as a Russian representative from 1997-2007 and again from 2015 onwards. In 2019, he was re-elected to serve on the World Committee until 2023. In 2021, he was invited to head as president the 31st IACRLRD symposium in Moscow in 2023.
Prof. Savchenko promoted participation of his Hematological Centre in the European LeukemiaNet (ELN); his institution becoming one of the six initial Russian ELN-participants. In 2011, he gave the ELN-keynote lecture on acute myeloid leukemia. His group continues to be a strong partner of cooperative leukemia research within ELN.
Analytical mind, soft speech and cautious humour of Prof. Savchenko’s are unforgettable. He is survived by his wife and long-term collaborator, Prof. Elena Parovichnikova, an internationally renowned hematologist, his son and daughter, Pavel and Sofia and grandchildren.
There are people that are hard to replace, and Savchenko was among them. We are reminded of the proverb: Death is a giant against whom even the Tsars must draw weapons. The loss is immense.
Alexander D. Kulagin, Prof., Director, RM Gorbacheva Memorial Research Institute of Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Transpantation, Pavlov University, St. Petersburg, Russia
Rüdiger Hehlmann, Prof. Dr., Dr. h.c, Med. Fakultät Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Germany
Robert Peter Gale, Visiting Prof., Dr., DSc h.c., Hematology Research Centre, Imperial College London, London, UK
Axel R. Zander, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c., University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany
Boris Fehse, Prof. Dr., Hamburg University, Germany
Accepted 05 August 2021