Bertha Bouroncle, hematology/oncology

Bertha Bouroncle (1919-2013) came to The Ohio State University in 1948 on a one-year postdoctoral scholarship awarded to her by Saint Marcos National University Medical School in Peru. The only woman in her medical school class, she went on to become the first female chief resident at Ohio State in 1953 and the first female full professor at a medical school in the state of Ohio in 1970.

Bouroncle was considered a pioneer in Ohio State’s research on cancer and leukemia treatment. In 1958 she described leukemic reticuloendotheliosis, an unusual form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (1).  The disease was subsequently named ‘hairy cell leukemia’ because of the ragged edges of the malignant cells, which display hair-like projections under the microscope. Along with her colleagues, Drs. Michael Grever and Eric Kraut, she developed pentostatin, an effective therapy for hairy cell leukemia that helped transform this once uniformly fatal disease into one of the most treatable of cancers.

Bouroncle was also an outstanding educator who received numerous teaching awards during her Ohio State career.