Linkage 6/17: Remembering Dr. Nachman & Neuroprosthetics

nachman31Around the pediatric cancer wards at Comer Children’s Hospital, he was known by the rhyming nickname of “Doc Nach” and for delighting patients with his Mickey Mouse watch. On a ward where a smiling face goes a long way, Dr. James Nachman was always happy to provide a cheerful presence. Behind the scenes, he was also a dogged researcher, developing new protocols for children who didn’t respond to the standard treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and working to save the limbs of children diagnosed with sarcoma, a cancer of the bones.

Sadly, Nachman passed away last week at the age of 62, while on a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. This week, Medical Center colleagues remembered “Doc Nach” for his skill with patients and scientific expertise.

“Jim was an outstanding clinician, teacher, and clinical researcher,” said John Cunningham, professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric oncology. “He made seminal observations in leukemia and lymphoma that have impacted the lives of many children and adults with these diseases. He was an outstanding doctor, beloved by his patients, their families, and his colleagues. He was an irreplaceable member of our cancer team. We will miss him deeply.”

Patients’ families also were quick to pay tribute to Nachman. At the ChicagoNow blog “Ay Mama,” Laura Lutarewych wrote a moving post about her encounters with Nachman during the treatment of her 2-year-old daughter, Atia.

He’d walk into a room with a smile asking,How’s my favorite girl?” It didn’t matter who the patient was – they were all his favorite, so it was fitting and each child wore their title proudly.

Without exception, he’d hold out his wrist and ask, “Who’s on my watch?” Atia especially loved that part, because she knew the script; she didn’t even have to look at the watch. With a huge smile, she’d point at it and exclaim, “Mickey Mouse!”

Earlier this year, we shot a video with Nachman for a series of informational segments on pediatric cancer topics that you can view below. Even in answering technical questions about how ALL is diagnosed and treated, you can see the good cheer and optimism in Nachman’s demeanor that was so comforting to his patients. For all of the people he touched during his life, that positive attitude will be missed.

“He was an optimistic, sunny person,” his brother Robert Nachman said in the Chicago Tribune obituary, “and his eyes lit up whenever he was talking about children.”


Linkage was off last week, so we didn’t have a chance to post this excellent front-page Chicago Tribune article about the neuroprosthetics research program here at the University of Chicago. Reporter Cynthia Dizikes also penned an online supplement that explains the link between assistant professor Sliman Bensmaia‘s favorite Star Wars scene and his research on the neural mechanisms of touch.

The story of human civilization can be told through the evolutionary history of rice, according to a Science Times piece on a recent paper by University of Chicago evolutionary geneticist Chung-I Wu. The sharing of rice strains between Chinese villages thousands of years ago spurred the development of the multiple rice species now available, Wu told the newspaper: “Intellectual property infringement has occurred since the beginning of civilization. That’s why we have this rice to eat today.”

Inspired by the method turtles use to right themselves when flipped upside-down on to their shells, German scientists have created the Gömböc, described by the io9 blog as “one of the strangest shapes in the world.” Despite it’s lumpy appearance, the Gömböc is a finely-calibrated block able to flip itself over with no power needed. Watch the cool video, despite the German narration.

The music industry has been struggling for the last ten years, but will brain scans of teenagers show them the way to create hit songs? The Wall Street Journal reports on a very unusual study from Emory University.

Our Bench to Bedside podcast is now officially listed on iTunesU, and you can subscribe to receive it automatically by opening iTunes via this link. Now that we are listed, you can look forward to more regular updates about clinical and laboratory research at the Medical Center.

About Rob Mitchum (525 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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