Lifetime Achievement Award 2021

Mark Boguski, MD, PhD (March 18, 2021)

This dedication in memory of Dr. Mark Boguski was written and compiled by Dr. Mary E. Edgerton:

Mark Boguski was born in Cleveland Ohio. He graduated from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1976. From there he went to St Louis where he graduated with an MD/PhD from Washington University. Following his training as a pathologist at Barnes Jewish and Children’s Hospital in St Louis, he joined the National Institutes of Health as a Medical Staff Fellow in 1988. In fact, he was one of the original Medical Staff Fellows at the National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information and worked with the Human Genome Project from 1990 until 2003. It is difficult to list all of the awards that Mark received during that time, and after, because there are so many. But these two stand out to me : 1996 Regents Award from the National Library of Medicine for Scholarly and Technical Contributions to the Construction of the Human Transcript Map  and the 1998 NIH Director's Award for contributions to the "NCI Tumor Gene Index Project".  Mark himself said of that time that My exposure to GenBank and sequence analysis in graduate school was a pivotal point in my career and this new direction was strongly reinforced by the beginning of the Human Genome project during my postdoctoral training at NIH and the startup of NCBI.

I began to see these incredible bioinformatics papers coming out of the NIH authored by Mark Boguski. I made a little card for him in the roll-a-dex of my brain that I keep to follow people who are leaders. Imagine how excited I was when I was asked to moderate a panel discussion in 2017, and Mark Boguski was one of the panel members. I was thrilled.  He was so generous with his time and teaching; and sharing his intellect with all-comers. This is seen in the many tributes to him that people have expressed. I would like to read some excerpts from these as they describe the warmth and imagination of Mark Boguski.

Howard Cash of Gene Code Forensics wrote: An incredible scientist, teacher, doctor, engineer, father, brother, husband and so much more. Mark was that rare combination of a man who is incredibly smart, wildly successful in his field, admired and honored by all, resented by essentially none, and somehow, , invariably kind and welcoming to people at every level of their careers and of their lives.

Thomas Madden at the NIH wrote I knew Mark from the NCBI. I remember how he helped me and another younger scientist with a paper we were writing by giving us an example to show the relevance of the work.

John Tsang at NIH:  Mark was a great mentor with a wonderful sense of humor and always very kind. He also later advised me on and wrote me a letter for grad school. He will be greatly missed

Mark Benjamin:  I worked very closely with Mark when he was at Rosetta Inpharmatics 2000-2001. He was super-smart, warm and generous. I have very fine memories of working with him.

Rowan Chapman: I worked with him at Rosetta and again in the early days of the Allen Institute.

I want to add here that Mark was a founding director of the Allen Brain Institute. 

Atul Butte, Director, Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute, UCSF:  Mark really influenced my career at a very early stage of being an academic scientist.  Very sad to hear about this.

A tribute from Ul Balis, another member of the executive council of API and a previous winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award,  which I will read in full because it contains so much of what Mark means to us as his colleagues and students:  For me, Mark’s accomplishments were emblematic of the potential that the specialty of pathology holds for contributing in a substantive way to the advancement of science in general.  For starters, Mark’s accomplishments were numerous.  As a founding member of the Human Genome Project, he contributed to one of the largest scientific projects of the late 20th century, and in so doing, similarly elevated pathology’s visibility as an important contributor to genomic sciences.  Leveraging his successes with that effort, he then went on to create company with a new service model in healthcare, Precision Medicine Network, Inc., which sought to reduce the complexities of precision medicine with a democratizing tool suite Crosswalk Insight, which introduced the general public to the underlying molecular concepts and treatment approaches.  Simply put, Mark was a visionary, always seeing where the field would be with great clarity and insight, easily a decade ahead of when these predictions would fully come to fruition.

 The real paradox with Mark was in his extreme modesty, as he generally lacked any measure of self-realization as to how impactful his storied career had been -- for both science and for society in general.  An unsuspecting scientist, meeting him for the first time, would generally be unaware of the gravitas of Mark’s legacy of contributions, as Mark’s affable and self-deprecating style belied nothing of his intense intellect.   Only after engaging in any further scientific discourse would the unsuspecting interlocutor discover the true juggernaut of Mark’s intellect.  Adding to this a remarkably dry wit and his unflagging curiosity, and you had the full package:  the remarkable scientist and human being that became my colleague and friend, while I had the distinct privilege of working with him at Inspirata. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

The list goes on. 

I want to add some of some of Mark’s own words that made him special to all of us, and which demonstrate how deserving he is of the  award today. In preparation for a panel discussion for the Precision Medicine meeting in 2017, his dedication to the field of pathology comes from his own words here: 

My main goals for the panel is to get pathology and pathologists out front and center into the Precision Medicine debates and also stress that liquid biopsies and molecular testing in general will still be secondary to morphologic diagnosis for a long time to come.

Indeed we expect the latter to be greatly enhanced by digital imaging and analytics, the accuracy and precision of which may rival molecular testing in terms of cost and turn around times.

And as a follow-up, afterwards, this lovely note that shows his modesty;

At the risk of self-aggrandizement, I think that our panel had a practical, real world, here-and-now quality that the more futuristic sessions lack.  I'd be really interested in the feedback you get from attendees on whether or not they found value in this approach.

Mark Boguski met Michelle Berman, his wife, while they were both in Baltimore at The Johns Hopkins University. They have two children, Robert Boguski, and daughter-in-law April Tang, and daughter Alison Boguski and son-in-law Alex Ebling, and two grandsons, Theodore Ebling and Benjamin Boguski, both nearly 2 years old. He is also survived by his brother Michael Boguski and sister Monica Calzolari.

To Mark’s family, thank you for sharing Mark Boguski with us. When I think of him, the words that come to my mind are Carpe Diem, Seize the Day. Mark thought outside the box and led us with his imagination.

He leaves us with another very important message that should become a daily mantra for all of us. This was expressed by his sister Monica Boguski Calzolari in response to a tribute: please remember to tell those you admire and love how much they mean to you. Today might just be the day when they need to hear it. 

On our API website is a link to the National Alliance of Mental Illness where you can make a donation in his name.

And now I would like to ask for a moment of silence in memory of Mark Boguski. 

Mary E Edgerton, MD, PhD

This tribute was delivered April 5, 2021 at the API Opening Reception. The script has been corrected to reflect that Mark Boguski met Michelle Berman, his wife, while they were both in Baltimore at The Johns Hopkins University. The prior, incorrect version stated that they met in St. Louis.BoguskiThis tribute was delivered April 5, 2021 at the API Opening Reception.

This dedication in memory of Dr. Mark Boguski was written by Dr. Michael J. Becich:

Mark Boguski was my classmate and colleague for several years in the mid to late 80’s at Washington University School of Medicine and the Pathology Department. Mark was a creative genius who was one of the original innovators in bioinformatics long before that term was really understood in both science and medicine. Mark was one of those rare individuals who could encourage both scientific innovation and commercial translation in a way that was inspiring to all around him. His early ventures in Rosetta Genomics set the stage for his career in both academia and industry. Although I often spoke with and exchanged ideas with Mark for his various passions, I never thought that he was hurting so much on the inside, and wish I could have recognized his needs. I will remember Mark as a visionary leader, inspirational commercial translationalist and a pioneer in bioinformatics well deserving of the API Lifetime Achievement Award. His life’s work is foundational to so many of the great things coming out of Pathology today, including understanding of the role the genome plays in human disease, the implementation of Precision Medicine and most importantly, the impact one gentle giant can mean to this discipline. If I were to best honor Mark, I would say he was a trailblazer that was likeable, highly articulate, and humble and incredibly magnetic in his ability to attract, engage and inspire others. I feel lucky to have had my life enriched by being Mark’s friend and classmate and he is sorely missed.