Ph.D., Residency and Fellowship ClassNotes

Please note: all classnotes submitted prior to March 2020 are indicated with an asterisk (*). Any views expressed are those of the submitter and not of the UW School of Medicine.



Headshot of Andras Lacko, PhD, in his laboratory.*Andras Lacko, Ph.D. ’68 (biochemistry), is currently pursuing a new era of drug delivery via his lipoprotein drug delivery research laboratory. In 1998, Dr. Andras Lacko and his team at the UNT Health Science Center began to pursue ideas around the relationship between HDL cholesterol and cancer (following the lead of earlier research, specifically Dr. Van Berkel), and have since become internationally recognized for their research in this area. They have asked – and are answering — the question of how exploiting the appetite that cancer cells have for HDL cholesterol might be the key to unlocking more effective and less toxic delivery of anti-cancer drug therapies. Dr. Lacko’s Lipoprotein Drug Delivery Research Laboratory has developed strong working relationships with research colleagues at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and with partner pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. and Europe to advance and accelerate research into this potentially life-saving drug delivery method.

Dr. Lacko’s lab is exploiting the prevalence of receptors now known to exist on most types of cancer cells that attach and readily absorb HDL cholesterol. His lab is perfecting the creation of reconstituted high density lipoprotein nanoparticles (rHDL NPs) that are sometimes referred to as “Nature’s drug delivery system,” because of their biocompatibility (i.e., easy and safe absorption) and low toxicity (little to no impact on otherwise healthy tissue and cells surrounding cancerous cells). These rHDL NPs are proving to be extremely effective in delivering therapeutic payloads to cancer cells and tumors while sparing most normal tissue.

The beauty of this delivery method is that it is not specific for fighting only one or two cancers, but is being proven effective as a delivery method for a broad range of anti-cancer drugs. Dr. Lacko’s partnership with M.D. Anderson is focused on development of a “circulating HDL” nucleic acid-based nanoparticle, while his lab developed and patented an “artificial” or synthetic HDL, in collaboration with Dr. Alan Remaley at the NIH, that functions well as a delivery vehicle for a broad range of drug “payloads.”
The process is reminiscent of the Trojan Horse strategy of Greek mythology. But instead of embedding an army in the belly of a huge wooden horse, the technology embeds anti-cancer drugs inside nanoparticles that are invited inside (or eaten) by the cancer cells, masquerading as HDL cholesterol. Once inside, the particles break down and deliver the drug directly into the cancer cells – avoiding nearby healthy tissue.

Dr. Lacko and his team are working to take this patented technology into animal trials. The proof of concept results from these studies are anticipated to reinforce the effectiveness of the nanoparticle delivery model and attract partners who can provide the necessary funding to move the technology toward human trials.


*Howard Young, Ph.D. ’74 (microbiology), received the Mentoring Award from the Women Scientist Association in the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute. In 2018 he also received the the NIH Directors Ruth Kirchstein Award for Mentoring.


Edward Kelly, Ph.D. ’96 (biochemistry), writes, “Since graduating from biochemistry, I completed a post-doc in molecular toxicology in the lab of our graduate-school dean (David Eaton). I then had a brief foray into the Seattle biotech scene (Targeted Genetics) before returning to the UW, where I am now an associate professor of pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy. My research is focused on preclinical biology and drug safety testing, developing ex vivo models as alternatives to animal testing. This includes a project jointly funded by NIH and NASA to send our kidney ‘chip’ to the International Space Station, highlighted at the Northwest Kidney Centers’ annual gala.” See the accompanying video featuring Dr. Kelly.

Residents and Fellows


*J. Ben Hammett, M.D., Res. ’68 (internal medicine), Res. ’71 (internal medicine), writes, “Survived quad bypass Feb 15. 4 days of my life I remember nothing about. Did part of the cardiac rehab program at UNC, finished back in Idaho where I live with my wonderful wife, Kathy. Hard to believe med school ended in 1960. Did GI till I hit 65, those of us still around I wish the best.”


*Robert Hauck, MD, Res. ’69 (pediatrics), writes, “Katie and I soon celebrate our 50th with our 6 children, 14 grands, and 6 greats. Life is good with weekly doses of young people preventing us from becoming too old, too quickly. After practicing pediatrics in this community I am regularly greeted by adult former patients who recognize me — they are not the same children I once knew. Community service, duplicate bridge, gardening, travel, cooking keep us involved. bob hauck”

*John A. Liebert, M.D., Res. ’69, writes, “Just out of the war as a USAF Flight Surgeon, I had a start in military medicine. Circumstances in Seattle at the time engaged me in police psychiatry and then forensic psychiatry. We were trained in community psychiatry, a subspecialty that has pretty much faded with the collapse of public psychiatry, but we received a total of 2 hours of formal training in forensic psychiatry. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not even considered in our patient population. I hope the books that I have written on forensic psychiatry and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder help advance education in these topics, because the destructive behaviors of murder and suicide are critical topics today. My latest medical textbook, Psychiatric Criminology: A Roadmap for Rapid Assessment is probably the broadest effort I have made to cover what I had to learn by experience in psychiatry and hopefully can expose students to before they hit the streets.”


Ted Rothstein, MD, Res. ’70 (neurology), writes, “For the past 17 years, I have been on faculty at George Washington University in Washington, DC. I am a professor of neurology and the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Care and Research Center. I continue to publish articles concerning the role of SSEP [somatosensory evoked potential] in evaluating post-anoxic coma and on grey matter changes in MS.”


*Denis Benjamin, MBB, B.Ch., Res. ’74 (pathology), writes, “Emigrated to Seattle in 1970, completed a residency in pathology and spent the next 30 years at the children’s hospitals in Seattle and 10 years in Fort worth. Retired in 2010. Involved in mycology, publishing two books on the subject (Mushrooms: Poisons and Panaceas (WH Freeman and Co. NY NY 1995)

Musings of a Mushroom Hunter: A Natural History of Foraging (Tembe Publ. 2010). Most recent book recounts stories from medical school at Wits’s in the 1960s – The Compleat Physician: Reflections from a golden era of clinical medicine. Available on”


William L. Oppenheim, M.D., Res. ’74 (Orthopedic Surgery), director of the UCLA / Orthopaedic Institute for Children’s Cerebral Palsy Program, received the 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics Distinguished Service Award for orthopedics at their Annual Meeting in November 2018. Dr. Oppenheim is also a former recipient of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a past president of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine as well as the Western Orthopaedic Association’s Los Angeles chapter. He is in his 40th year at UCLA and continues as the Jones Kanaar Professor and Emeritus Chief of Pediatric Orthopaedics.


Jeanne-Marie Maher, M.D., Res. ’91 (internal medicine), writes “After 20 years of internal medicine, went back for fellowship training at the National Institutes of Health in Palliative Medicine. Now Medical Director Palliative Medicine at Catholic Medical Center Manchester NH.”


Todd Strumwasser, M.D., Res. ’94 (anesthesiology), became the SVP of Operations for the San Francisco Bay Area for Dignity Health on Feb. 2015. He is now the President of the Northern California Division of CommonSpirit Health. Todd is responsible for both the Bay Area and North State Service Areas. He has responsibility over an assigned portfolio of healthcare assets which includes, acute care, ambulatory outpatient services, philanthropy, physician alignment and employment business models, as well as other alternative healthcare delivery systems. Todd oversees seven hospitals, including St. Mary’s Medical Center, Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, Sequoia Hospital, Dominican Hospital, Mercy Medical Center Redding, St Elizabeth Community Hospital and Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta. He leads this Division to ensure optimal strategic positioning and operating performance


Brett G. Toresdahl, M.D., Res. ’13 (Family Medicine), Fel. ’13 (Family Medicine-Sports Medicine), writes, “I traveled to Korea to support Team USA as team physician for the U.S. biathlon at the PeyongChang Winter Olympic Games. I have worked with the team since 2014, when I moved to New York to begin my practice in primary-care sports medicine at the Hospital for Special Surgery.”

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