William E. Harmon, M.D.

In the press

The following are articles that appeared in the press about Dr. William Harmon.

In memoriam by Richard N. Fine, M.D.

Originally published on June 9, 2016 in
American Society of Transplantation.

On May 29, I lost a personal friend, and the field of transplantation lost a pioneer in pediatric transplantation.

Bill Harmon was a giant in the field of pediatric nephrology. After completing his training in pediatrics and pediatric nephrology in 1978, Bill joined the faculty of Boston Children’s Hospital in the Division of Pediatric Nephrology led by Warren E. Grupe. Actually, in his final year of fellowship, he was appointed the first Director of the Hemodialysis Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital. This appointment led to his life-long interest in the treatment of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in children.

Bill’s accomplishments until his untimely death at the age of 72 involved education, research, patient care, and administrative leadership. He was truly the Renaissance man.

Bill was the penultimate educator – whether teaching medical students, residents, or pediatric nephrology fellows at the bedside or in the dialysis unit, or traveling the globe to educate colleagues worldwide on the latest strategies to optimally manage children requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. If you put pins in a map of the world indicating all the countries where Bill lectured, it would demonstrate few empty areas. One of his greatest legacies is the more than 65 pediatric nephrology fellows he trained at Boston Children’s Hospital over a 38-year period. These individuals have leadership roles in pediatric nephrology at many of the most prestigious institutions in this country and worldwide.

Research was a passion for Bill. In the early 1990’s, Bill joined the leadership group of the North American Pediatric Renal Transplant Cooperative Study (NAPRTCS) and was instrumental in changing the direction of the organization from a data-collection registry to a clinical trials cooperative. This led to many seminal projects which changed the clinical care of children with ESRD. With the sudden death of Amir Tejani in 2002, Bill assumed the helm as president of NAPRTCS and guided the organization during difficult financial times to expand its efforts in clinical trials and to become the premier clinical trials organization involving children with ESRD.

The care of children with kidney disease, especially those with ESRD requiring dialysis and kidney transplantation, were Bill’s top priority. He thrived seeing critically ill children recover to the extent that they could return to an excellent quality of life following successful kidney transplantation. Bill involved himself in many governmental organizations to assure that children with ESRD were given a priority in any guidelines or legislation to be enacted. He made sure pediatric needs were heard.

Bill had a leadership role in many academic societies, most notably the American Society of Transplantation. He served on the Board of Directors as a Counselor, Secretary-Treasurer, President- Elect, President, and Past-President over a 9-year period when the organization was undergoing maximal growth and establishing itself as the premier transplant organization worldwide.

In his 2003 AST presidential address, Bill said, "transplantation isn’t about a single hero, but a group of heroes. We’ve come a long way but there are still huge obstacles to surmount and huge discoveries to be made by new heroes." On May 29, we lost one such hero. Bill’s subtle humor, keen intellect, and engaging personality will be missed by all with whom he interacted.

In memoriam by
the American Society of Nephrology

Originally published on June 2, 2016 in American Society of Nephrology.

It is with great sadness that we report that William Harmon, MD, passed away Friday at the age of 72, following a long-term chronic illness. Dr. Harmon has served as Senior Associate in Pediatrics since 2013, when he completed an extraordinary tenure of 25 years as Boston Children's Hospital's Nephrologist-in-Chief. He was also Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, where he held the Warren E. Grupe Chair in Pediatric Nephrology. He is remembered as a good friend and a valued colleague—a man of incredible grit and determination, who was always outspoken if the cause was just.

"Bill always had the right best interests at heart," says Physician-in-Chief Gary Fleisher, MD. "As a physician, he was completely dedicated to his patients. As a Division Chief, he was unfailingly loyal to his doctors and nurses."

Dr. Harmon began his career at Boston Children's in 1971 as an intern. In 1979, after Junior and Senior Residencies and Clinical and Research Fellowships, he was appointed the first Director of Boston Children's Dialysis Unit. That appointment began a lifelong commitment to the care and study of children with end-stage renal disease. He pioneered techniques and devices to adapt hemodialysis for the care of infants and young children. Quickly recognizing that dialysis was an imperfect treatment for children, he championed renal transplantation programs.

In doing so, Dr. Harmon became the first pediatrician to serve as Chairman of the New England Organ Bank’s Board of Directors, and the first to serve as Secretary Treasurer of the American Society of Transplantation, an organization he would come to lead as its president. He was appointed the first Chairman of the permanent Pediatric Committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Throughout, Dr. Harmon continued to work his way up through a series of increasing leadership roles, culminating in his quarter-century of service as Nephrologist-in-Chief from 1987 to 2013, and most recently, President of the Physicians' Organization. "When many would have been happy to slow down, Bill volunteered to take on the leadership of the PO in the most challenging times we have experienced in decades," says President and CEO Sandra L. Fenwick. "He helped broaden and deepen understanding across the physician community of the threats and profound changes facing academic medicine and supported a strong coalition of hospital and physicians to ensure Boston Children’s future. His leadership had a significant impact on the lives of the children and families we serve."

Under Dr. Harmon's leadership, the Division of Nephrology played a key role in ensuring that children under 18 receive priority status on kidney waiting lists. It has developed the largest and most active kidney transplant clinical trials group in the nation, as well as the largest pediatric nephrology training program in the country. The Division has been ranked #1 in the annual U.S.News and World Report "Best Children's Hospitals" survey repeatedly, and the Kidney Transplant Program has been honored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a national leader in the field, all while Dr. Harmon continued his groundbreaking research into improving outcomes and decreasing complications of kidney transplantation in children.

In 2002, his work with the P.O. was critical to moving the Department of Medicine to the Foundation model, as he proved to be equally savvy in negotiating physician payments and revenue management as he was in treating patients and conducting world-changing research.

Dr. Harmon's contributions to the field of nephrology and to Boston Children's have been tremendous, as was his refusal to let his health impact his work. Despite his chronic illness, Dr. Harmon still attended 6 months out of the year, and was still reviewing grants and connecting with the NIH about his research, even in his final days.

Dr. Fleisher recalls times when Dr. Harmon would see patients all morning, then run over to the Brigham to get a blood transfusion, then return to see more patients. "Some days, he was so sick, I don't know what kept him going," Fleisher says. "But he loved his work, he loved his patients and he didn't want to be beaten by anything." On his worst days, when asked how he was feeling, Dr. Harmon would still inevitably respond "Never been better."

Longtime friend and colleague, Associate Physician-in-Chief Fred Lovejoy, MD, describes Dr. Harmon as "a tremendous servant to this hospital, the Department of Medicine, the field of Nephrology and patients with kidney disease around the world. He was a genuine person, and a true force for good at Boston Children's."


Originally published on June 2, 2016 in the Boston Globe.

HARMON, William, MD. Husband of 38 years to Diane Schweitzer, MD, and father to Elizabeth Harmon and Michael Harmon, passed away on May 29th, 2016 in Boston, MA. He is the son of the late J. Leo Harmon and Frances B. Harmon and is survived by his brothers Philip and James Harmon. Dr. Harmon was an avid sailor and a Commander in the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Harmon was Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, where he held the Warren E. Grupe Chair in Pediatric Nephrology. He served at Boston Children's Hospital since 1971 and completed an extraordinary tenure of 26 years as Boston Children's Hospital's Nephrologist-in-Chief. Dr. Harmon's family requests that donations be made in his honor to the "Division of Nephrology" at Boston Children's Hospital for "Kidney Transplant Clinical Research". Memorial services will be held later this year & announced on www.williamharmonmd.com.