Mette Strand, 60, professor at Hopkins medical school

October 20, 1997|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Mette Strand, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and pioneer in the research of parasitic diseases, died of cancer Oct. 10 in Niva, Denmark. She was 60.

An indefatigable scientist, the Danish-born Dr. Strand dedicated herself to finding a cure for schistosomiasis, a debilitating illness that affects 200 million people, mostly in tropical countries. As head of the school's pharmacology graduate program, she trained some of the most promising young minds on campus.

"She helped shape the careers of countless students," said Thomas August, director of pharmacology and molecular science at Hopkins.

"Her research family was her family," said Paul Talalay, professor of pharmacology at Hopkins. Last year, he said, she was "devastated" by the loss of her protege, Alicia Showalter Reynolds, a young Hopkins graduate student found slain near Culpeper, Va.

"Alicia was like her own daughter," he said.

A quiet, unassuming researcher who devoted her life to stamping out parasitic diseases, Dr. Strand had been working on a preventive vaccine for schistosomiasis, or "snail fever," a malady contracted by swimmers that causes bleeding and scarring in the bladder or intestine.

She also made key contributions to human immunodeficiency virus and cancer research, and served on advisory boards of the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization.

She was buried Saturday in Niva.

"She was a lovely person and a wonderful mentor to her students, who thought her very fair and human," said Paula Pitha-Rowe, professor of oncology at Hopkins. "But because she wasn't flamboyant, I don't think the Hopkins community really appreciated how good a scientist she was."

Others marveled at her rapport with students. When she learned of her terminal cancer in June, Dr. Strand kept it secret. "She worried that [telling students] would distract them from finishing their studies," Dr. Pitha-Rowe said.

She enjoyed reading, classical music and modern art. She lived in the Village of Cross Keys.

Born in Kolding, Denmark, Dr. Strand earned a doctorate degree in biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen. Thirty years ago, she came to the United States to do research, first at the University of California at Berkeley, then at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She joined the faculty at Hopkins in 1977 and became a full professor in 1990.

Survivors include two sisters, Birgit Kjaer-Petersen of Niva and Jytte Bryde Andersen of Hvidovre, Denmark.

Donations may be made to The Mette Strand Memorial Fund, c/o the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 725 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore 21205.

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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