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August 2005 Issue

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Transfusion Medicine Expert Dr. Tibor Greenwalt Dies at Age 91

Published August 2005

Tibor (Tibi) Greenwalt, MD, a internationally known pioneer in transfusion medicine who headed UC's Hoxworth Blood Center from 1979 to 1987, died July 17 at the age of 91.

Dr. Greenwalt served as director of Hoxworth's Research Department from 1997 to 2003, when he became emeritus director of research. He was also emeritus professor of internal medicine and pathology at the Medical Center.

Until his recent illness and hospitalization, Dr. Greenwalt kept regular office hours each day, continuing to write papers and explore new developments in blood transfusion research.

"Our beloved and distinguished emeritus director of research continued to maintain a vibrant research program and leadership activities nationally and internationally in the field of transfusion medicine," said Ronald Sacher, MD, director of Hoxworth Blood Center.

"He was very active in the local hematology and blood banking community and continued his research into extending the storage life of blood from the standard six weeks up to 12 weeks. He was indeed performing his research at the age of 91 and had just completed two scientific papers prior to his death. He will be sadly missed."

Born in Hungary on Jan. 23, 1914, Dr. Greenwalt immigrated to the United States in 1920.

He earned his undergraduate degree and MD from New York University, studied under William Dameshek, MD, at the New England Medical Center and continued his interest in blood diseases while serving in the U.S. Army in India during World War II. After the war, he became medical director of what is now the BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

Dr. Greenwalt served as vice president of the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), of which he was a founding member, and national director of the American Red Cross Blood Program. He is credited with establishing the "rare donor" registry for both organizations.

In his laboratories at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., he directed research into hepatitis and the storage of red blood cells, and developed the first filter for white blood cells. His work on the long-term storage of red cells while at Hoxworth has resulted in new storage solutions.

A specialist in Rh factors and hemolytic disease of the newborn, Dr. Greenwalt is credited with determining that red cells work better than whole blood for exchange transfusions. He developed an interest in blood groups, which led to collaboration with leading researchers, including Robert Race and Ruth Sanger, at London's Lister Institute.

A founding editor of Transfusion, a scientific journal covering transfusion medicine, Dr. Greenwalt contributed to over 200 major books and research papers in the scientific literature.

In recognition of his contributions to his field, in 1984 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early in 2005, Dr. Greenwalt was awarded the prestigious Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award, from the American Association of Blood Banks, for life-time achievement in blood and transfusion sciences.

Karl Landsteiner, MD, after whom the award was named, was the first to document differences in blood types, and which types can be safely used for transfusion. He received the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of blood groups in 1901 and for his continuing work on the interaction of different groups.

Dr. Greenwalt, who lived in Hyde Park, is survived by a son, Peter Greenwalt, MD, and three grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Hoxworth Blood Center (Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Fund), University of Cincinnati Medical Center, PO Box 670055, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0055.

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