We Remember Dr. Evelyn Hess – A Pioneer in Lupus Research
We are saddened to learn of the passing of a great friend and supporter of the Lupus Foundation of America. Dr. Evelyn V. Hess, who was an early modern pioneer in lupus research and a decades-long leader and advisor to the Foundation, passed away on December 25. We offer our condolences to her family and colleagues.
Dr. Hess was an internationally known expert in lupus, with a special interest in the area of the environmental aspects of the disease. She chaired the Foundation’s Medical-Scientific Advisory Council (MSAC) for nearly 20 years, helping support the early studies and career development of some of today’s leading lupus researchers and clinicians.
Dr. Hess also served on the Foundation’s board of directors and was admired by her board colleagues for her passion and respected for her insight and ingenuity, always offering supportive advice, calling upon her decades of experience in the lab and clinic. In 2004, she was named a lifetime honorary member of the board and continued to help shape the Foundation’s policies and strategic direction.
Sandra C. Raymond, President and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America, praised Dr. Hess’ contribution to lupus research and care. “Dr. Hess was a leader among leaders. She was a major contributor to the body of knowledge about the causes of lupus, as well as a mentor and inspiration to many in the field whose work today is helping to advance the science and medicine of lupus. All of us owe Dr. Hess a great deal of gratitude for her tireless efforts.”
In 2005, the Lupus Foundation of America established the Evelyn V. Hess Award, recognizing Dr. Hess’ outstanding contributions to lupus research. She dedicated a major part of her life helping to advance lupus research and care around the world and to mentoring young investigators and clinicians.
Dr. Gary Gilkeson, Professor of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina and who succeeded Dr. Hess as the chair of the Foundation’s MSAC, fondly recalls interactions with Dr. Hess early in his investigative career. “She would come to my posters/presentations as they were related to her area of research. She always provided a critical, but fair assessment of my work. At the same time, she was very supportive of junior investigators entering the lupus field.”
For many years, Dr. Hess was a frequent presenter at education meetings sponsored by the Foundation’s national network of chapters. She also served on advisory boards for various governmental and other organizations regarding the availability and pricing of lupus drugs to make them more accessible to patients.
Dr. Hess authored more than 152 scientific papers, 73 book chapters and reviews, and 205 published abstracts throughout her long and distinguished career. She was one of the first to identify potential environmental factors that are associated with the disease and helped change the field’s perspective on the relationship between environmental factors and the onset of lupus, which eventually became an important area in present day lupus research.
The drug-induced lupus field, which she also pioneered, provided a critical clue to what causes and perpetuates lupus. Her early insights led to further work by many others, which has had a profound impact on how we understand how cells in the body are regulated as well as how this process affects the control of the immune system.
Dr. Joan T. Merrill, Professor of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Medical Director for the Lupus Foundation of America remembers Dr. Hess as fearless, incisive and outspoken, and a no-nonsense but inspiring mentor. “She was a great teacher and role model to women in medicine before there were so many of us around, and also to the many men who were her students and colleagues, many of whom are the greatest names in rheumatology, her most important legacy. "
At the time of her passing, Dr. Hess was Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She founded the college’s immunology, allergy and rheumatology division in 1964, serving as its director for 31 years. Dr. Hess was a Master of both the American College of Rheumatology and the American College of Physicians. She has received numerous awards and was listed in the 2004 edition of Best Doctors