It always makes us curious…. how did our esteemed colleagues and friends get “here”? Did you know what you wanted to do early on or did life’s paths take you down unexpected roads finding yourself “here”.  Please consider sharing your stories with us – we’d love to learn how your journey found you “here”.   And, please also keep us in mind to send other fun facts and updates to include in our upcoming Page 16 editions!

Life… “Full Circle” 

David Bodine

Dr. David Bodine, Chief, Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute and Scientific Advisory Board Member, DMAF

A feature interview with Dr. David Bodine: How a “shoot from the hip” thesis defense in college revealed his life’s goal and how his journey has brought him full circle.

Internationally recognized for his work in the field of genetics, Dr. Bodine is well known and cherished within the DBA world for his sincere appreciation for our patients and the work he is doing to help advance the understanding of red cell production in DBA patients. However, many of you may not know how his passion for this field of study actually began.  

As a young college student attending Colby College in Maine in the mid-1970’s Bodine’s life’s journey at that time was not well defined. With his talent showing more in his athletic prowess on the track team than in his academic studies, Bodine confesses he was not the most “dedicated student”, even once managing to find himself on Colby’s equivalent of “double secret probation” (a humorous feat told best by Bodine himself).  Bodine credits his first two mentors, Drs. Miriam Bennett and Arthur Champlin, both professors of Biology at Colby, who took him under their wing and “refused to give up on him”, nurturing the potential they saw in him.  Bodine affectionately recalls that while many athletic coaches had told him of the potential they saw in him, until that point, he had never been told by a teacher or professor that they saw academic potential in him. “This was a defining moment for me,” Bodine explained, “and their guidance ultimately propelled me into the field of biology.”

David Bodine Colby College Track TeamGraduating cum laude from Colby in 1976 with a double major and distinction in both Biology and Environmental Studies, Bodine had clearly gained a deeper appreciation for academics, but his path was still uncertain.  After graduating, Bodine coached track and worked for a time at a local woolen mill. It wasn’t until three years later that Bodine entered the University of Maine as a graduate student and joined Dr. Jane Barker’s lab at the Jackson Laboratory where he worked on four inherited mouse anemias, kindling his interest in red cells.  Bodine recalls with crystal clarity the day he defended his thesis in early April 1984. Opening his remarks by confiding to the Committee that opening day for the Boston Red Sox was the next day and that with tickets in hand, nothing, not even his thesis defense, was going to stop him from enjoying his trip to Boston. Later, when asked by the committee what he would like to study when he had his own lab, he recalls the he “shot from the hip,” and unequivocally stated “I would like to understand how stem and progenitor cells in the bone marrow decide to become red blood cells”. Recalling that statement, Bodine chuckled that he had really not given the matter much thought before hand, but recognized right away that he had identified a passion. And, so began a nearly 25 year odyssey toward that goal.

Like many starting out in their careers, Bodine spent much of his post-doctoral years focused on projects related more to the passions of his esteemed mentor, Dr. Art Nienhuis, than to his own. “When you’re training, the best thing to do is to train with people that really care about you,” Bodine said, adding, “while I ended up getting involved in the projects that Jane Barker and Art Nienhuis were interested in, those projects helped cultivate me to a point where I was ready to go out and pursue my own projects.” While working under Dr. Nienhuis, Bodine was initially involved in projects that had him searching for ways to introduce globin genes into stem cells, but he was also allowed to work on things he was personally interested in. Soon Bodine began working on developing assays and thinking about genetic approaches to dialing in on the functions of stem cells. Bodine moved to his own lab and his interest in unraveling the mysteries of how stem cells ultimately decide to become a red cells drove Bodine to begin studying red cell production using the mouse as a model system.

Bodine confesses he would have been quite happy making mouse models to study red cell production forever. That is, until Dr. Mohan Narla came to him and asked for his help in creating a mouse model of Diamond Blackan Anemia. Having followed important discoveries in the DBA field over the years with interest, Bodine met with Dr. Narla at the New York Blood Center. Following an afternoon mapping out the possible ways ahead, he agreed to help his friend. David Bodine & Emily DevlinWith the assistance of a young, promising researcher in his lab, Emily Devlin, they began their work and ultimately, under his guidance, Emily was able to create a successful DBA mouse model. Encouraged to attend the annual Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation International Consensus Conference on DBA to present their findings, Bodine couldn’t have predicted what was in store. “One thing I learned is that you never know when somebody is going to do or say something that will affect you in a profound way,” Bodine shared. Initially, Bodine was looking forward to the mouse models session at the meeting. However, after hearing moving speeches by Jason Rose, Kathi Vroman and others, and experiencing all that families like the Arturi’s had done to help those suffering with DBA, he admits fighting back tears and walking away with a much deeper appreciation for the fact that the work they were doing was much more than simply “a lab project”, their work was directly impacting lives.

Without turning back, Dr. Bodine has entrenched himself in work both directly and indirectly impacting the DBA world and has found himself serendipitously immersed in his life’s goal. With the patient’s never far from his thoughts, it is clear, Bodine’s “out of the box” thinking will build upon the important ribosome discoveries that have been made in the world of bone marrow failure by helping to identify the mutations in 100% of DBA patients while continuing to take the science to the next level in efforts to try to better understand the roles that ribosomes, transcription factors like EKLF and other genes have in red cell production.

Funny how someone who once considered himself ‘undedicated’ in his youth has become one of the most ‘dedicated’ and committed people we know. We’re grateful Dr. Bodine’s path brought him full circle to pursuing his life’s goal in the world of red cells and helping to find a cure for DBA.

Find more like this: Page Sixteen

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