Saturday, September 14, 2019

Science for the Greater Good series presents Dr. Hillyer ’80


Common hour events continued this past Thursday, September 12 but with a slight alteration. In the first of what will be five seminars this fall, the speaker series is called “Thursday Common Hour and Science for the Greater Good Series,” the speakers are supposed to illustrate how their work promotes science for the greater good. Dr. Christopher Hillyer ’80 was a professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine. He is now the current president and CEO of the New York Blood Center as well as a professor in medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical School spoke first.

Dr. Hillyer began his journey right here at Trinity College before heading off to the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He has completed fellowships in transfusion medicine, hematology-oncology, and bone marrow transplantation. In addition, Dr. Hillyer has received two Tiffany Awards from the Red Cross for work done overseas and has written over 150 articles on topics ranging from transfusion, HIV, herpes virus, and cytomegalovirus. He has over 20 patents or patents pending.

During the seminar, Dr. Hillyer asked the audience, “how do you influence the greatest number of people?” to which he answered “by finding and creating impact;” impact created by projects such as PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which seeks to improve blood transfusion in some areas of Africa and the Caribbean. PEPFAR was an initiative that was started by President George Bush in 2003 and was supposed to run until 2008, with a funding of 15 billion dollars. PEPFAR was meant to help combat the growing issue of HIV/AIDS in countries such as Africa. The purpose of the program was to give antiretroviral treatment (ART) to people infected with HIV and to halt its progression. The focus being mothers and making sure that if they are infected; their babies would not become infected too. In a slide presentation, Dr. Hillyer showed pictures of the effect this program has had in countries such as Kenya and Rwanda. He also talked about trainings that are being provided for doctors in these countries on proper methods of blood transfusion and new health centers that are being built in these areas. Illustrating the success of the program, on June 18, 2013, Secretary John Kerry stated that due to this program, the one-millionth baby born HIV free was due that month.

Other than PEPFAR, Dr. Hillyer also talked of his switch from practicing medicine to the corporate arena as a way of being able make more of an impact. According to Dr. Hillyer, the New York Blood Center currently has over $1.2 billion worth of stem cells; a field which is becoming more popular. Dr. Hillyer also mentioned the use of Early Transfusion Infusion Coagulation (ETIC) and its use on trauma patients such as a young girl who was involved in a car accident. Towards the end of the seminar, Dr. Hillyer implored the students to “please plan to fail, but just keep trying.”

For those who were not able to attend the Common Hour Event, Dr. Hillyer stayed on to have an hour-long discussion session at the Science Commons. During this time students were able to seek advice about applying to medical school, asking questions ranging from difficult classes such as Organic Chemistry to what attending a medical school interview is like. For the students who were present, they also had a chance to listen to Dr. Hillyer talk about what medical school was like for him as well as why he chose to attend Trinity College.

If you missed the first speaker but are interested in the series, the next lecture will be given by Dr. John Robson, another Trinity College alumnus. The focus of the following lecture will be on Cool New Translational Neuroscience and will be hosted on Thursday, October 24. For more information, email Professor Raskin at

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