A Genius and a Gentleman
Thousands of parents have David N. Glass, MD, to thank for helping their children enjoy better quality lives despite being afflicted with chronic, potentially crippling arthritic disease.
Glass died Sunday, Nov. 18, after a long illness. He was 70.
He devoted his career to studying childhood musculoskeletal diseases and was a pioneer in researching the complex genetics of juvenile arthritis. He is recognized as the leading authority on the immunogenetics of rheumatic disease in children and is respected around the world for his leadership and scientific achievements.
Glass became a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the director of the Division of Rheumatology at Cincinnati Children’s in 1987, a position he held until 2006. Under his leadership, the Division of Rheumatology grew to become one of the largest and most productive in the world. The division expanded from two faculty and seven employees in 1987, to 11 full-time faculty, one emeritus member and nearly 60 employees by 2006. Its annual grant funding soared from $150,000 to more than $5.5 million. An external Scientific Advisory Committee in 2006 considered the Division of Rheumatology at Cincinnati Children’s to be the ‘benchmark’ program for all of pediatric rheumatology.
Much of Glass’ research work is coming to fruition as studies identify more of the genes that contribute to the most common forms of juvenile arthritis and other pediatric rheumatic diseases. Glass spearheaded efforts to use genetic information to better define the major subtypes of juvenile arthritis and their response to therapy. The number of patients recruited for genetic studies of juvenile arthritis by Glass and his colleagues is likely the largest in the world. To date, DNA has been collected from nearly 3,000 juvenile arthritis patients.
Glass’ pioneering laboratory work has allowed members of his faculty, along with industry sponsors, to develop better drug therapies that have dramatically lessened the impact of rheumatic diseases.
“I have always been amazed at how David enabled even mid-level, experienced faculty to accomplish more than they ever thought possible,” said Edward Giannini, MSc, DrPH, whom Glass recruited to Cincinnati Children’s in 1990. “When I arrived here, I was quite proud of my achievements. And yet, within a year of my arrival, I was exploring entirely new arenas of research and clinical investigation. I was lucky to have grown up scientifically under this man.”
Glass has been honored in many ways for his contributions, including receiving the American College of Rheumatology Distinguished Investigator Award in 2003. He also was designated a Master of the American College of Rheumatology in 2007 in recognition of his career achievements.
Glass served on numerous national committees for the Arthritis Foundation and the American College of Rheumatology. He was an associate editor of the 21st edition of Rudolph’s Pediatrics, co-editor of the prestigious Oxford Textbook of Rheumatology and he contributed chapters to many editions of the Textbook of Pediatric Rheumatology. Overall, Glass published more than 160 peer-reviewed articles in 37 medical journals.
"David was a brilliant, perceptive and quietly assertive physician-researcher who had grand visions for kids with rheumatology conditions,” said Jim Anderson, former president and CEO of Cincinnati Children’s. “His work helped keep thousands of children out of wheelchairs. He gave kids their childhoods back.”
Glass received his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Birmingham in England and further medical training and Registrar positions in South Warwickshire and the Charing Cross Hospital in London. He completed a research fellowship at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London, then moved to the Robert B. Brigham Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. He spent the early part of his academic career at Harvard as an assistant and then associate professor before being recruited to Cincinnati Children’s.
Glass served as the associate director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation (CCRF) from 2006-2010. In this role, he served as the senior physician-scientist overseeing a research enterprise that includes more than 400 full-time scientists studying organogenesis, developmental biology, stem cell biology, cancer biology, immunology, genetics and many other themes. The foundation’s portfolio of more than $106 million in NIH-sponsored research grants is the second largest among all pediatric hospitals in the United States.
"In his role as associate director of the Research Foundation, Dr. Glass was instrumental in the growth of genetic research. He was also extraordinarily supportive and helpful to me when I joined Cincinnati Children's in 2007. David was honorable, an exceptional scientist, and a genuinely good person who epitomized the values of Cincinnati Children’s to foster inquiry and discovery through collaboration," said Arnold Strauss, MD, director, Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation and chair, Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Glass never stopped his research work even in the later years of his career when he had major administrative responsibilities. In the past five years, despite a progressive and debilitating illness, he co-authored 20 peer-reviewed publications.
“I know Dr. Glass as a reserved and humble, yet fiercely competitive, man who was constantly promoting the careers of those around him, from faculty to fellows and employees,” said Robert Colbert, MD, PhD, a former director of Rheumatology at Cincinnati Children’s who is now deputy clinical director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “His advice and support as a faculty mentor was well received and highly valued.”
Glass’ community service included a strong and extensive commitment to both the local and national offices of the Arthritis Foundation. He served on the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation Board of Directors, was chair of the Medical Scientific Committee from 1988-1996, and a senior trustee from 1996-2000. His service to the National Office of the Arthritis Foundation was exemplary. He was elected to the House of Delegates of the National Office of the Arthritis Foundation in 1989, served on the National Research Committee from 1992-1995, then as vice chair and eventually chair of the National Scientific and Medical Committee from 1995-2000.
Mary Kinsella, who worked with Glass since 2004, said he was kind, caring and strong.
“He was one of those quiet leaders that make you want to walk through fire or water to get things done for him.” Kinsella said. “He was very British. He loved having afternoon tea and taking a five-minute break to enjoy it. He was calm and reserved, but he also could come up with one-liners that would make you laugh out loud.”
In addition to his medical and scientific career, Glass was strongly committed to his children’s education, both academic and religious. He was active in his support of the Jewish community and a long-time member of Northern Hills Synagogue.
Glass is survived by his wife, Laura Wexler, MD; his daughters Stephanie (Andy) Glass Wapner and Dr. Eleanor (Elad Mokadi) Glass, and his son Benjamin Glass. He is also survived by his sister Elizabeth (Giorgio Immirzi) Glass and his brothers Martin (Yaffa) Glass and Stephen (Sheila) Glass.
Memorials can be made to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.