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In Memoriam: Adele Boskey, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Hofheinz, M.P.H., M.Ed. • Mon, May 22nd, 2017

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Adele Boskey, Ph.D.

She was the go-to scientist in the world of bone…and she graced the halls of Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) for 45 years. Esteemed researcher Adele Ludin Boskey, Ph.D., Starr Chair in Mineralized Tissue Research at HSS, who devoted her intellectual energies to untangling the mysteries of musculoskeletal diseases, has passed away. She was 73 years old.

Dr. Boskey is survived by her daughter Beth Boskey and Dr. Boskey's partner Jay Gerstein.

Dr. Boskey, senior scientist, and program director of the Musculoskeletal Integrity Program at HSS, obtained her bachelors in chemistry from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Boston University. She then began her post-doctoral fellowship at the Imperial College in London, completing her fellowship at HSS in 1972.

Dr. Boskey, the first female president of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and succeeded in publishing 270 articles during her career.

“As a physical chemist Dr. Boskey devoted her career to understanding biomineralization and bone formation,” says HSS. “Her pioneering research in the application of biophysical and imaging technologies to define the composition, structure and functional properties of bone changed the field, greatly deepened our understanding of bone quality and fracture risk, and led to the success of the present research programs at HSS. Her foundational research contributed to the understanding of a number of musculoskeletal diseases, including osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfect and growth plate abnormalities.”

Lionel Ivashkiv, M.D., chief scientific officer at Hospital for Special Surgery, said of his longtime colleague, "She was one of the real founding scientists and original leaders of research at HSS. She helped to establish the research division back in the ’80s and ’90s, and without her, we really would not have gotten anywhere near where we are now."

"I think her dedication and hard work were extraordinary, but I also think her spirit of wanting to mentor junior scientists—and these are people from different backgrounds, including orthopedic surgeons, engineers, and a whole slew of students, post-doctoral fellows—this was really something that was important to her and allowed her to have an impact on science, not just at HSS, but across the country and around the world."

"She was the founding scientist and world leader in the investigation of the quality of bone, which is very important in understanding osteoporosis and thinking of new ways to treat it.”

“She pioneered a variety of techniques, including biophysical and imaging techniques, to determine if bone has good or poor quality, and how bone quality is related to fracture susceptibility and the ability to recover from injury. This was a big step beyond the thinking at the time, when it was thought that just knowing the amount of bone mineral or density would be enough. She was a visionary and a real giant in the bone field. She was instrumental in driving forward bone research within the orthopedic area."

Dr. Boskey’s many recognitions included the Lawrence G. Raisz Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, the Distinguished Investigator Award from the ORS/Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) and the Pioneers in Innovation Award and the Women’s Leadership Forum Award from the ORS. She also received the ORS/American Orthopaedic Association Alfred R. Shands, Jr. Award.

Mathias Bostrom, M.D., an attending orthopedic surgeon at HSS, knew Dr. Boskey for 27 years. “I met her when I was just an orthopedic surgery resident. In a year, I learned good scientific technique; I learned more about bone from her than I ever thought I would know.”

"She was incredibly generous with her time and her mentorship. Her enthusiasm for science and her commitment to research were extraordinary. She was really devoted to improving our knowledge base about bone, in particular, and about musculoskeletal and orthopedic science generally."

"She's recognized as a world expert in bone, bone mineralization and how bones were affected by various pharmacological agents. With her background in chemistry, she was a world expert on how bone quality changed with various treatment modalities. People would come from around the world and want her to do the bone analysis because she had such state-of-the-art approaches."

“She was recognized by the Orthopaedic Research Society as one of the leading female mentors in the country. She really wanted to improve not only orthopedic science, but the ability of women in particular to advance their careers in orthopedics and in research in general.”

"When I came on staff at Hospital for Special Surgery, she provided bench space for me. I was under her lab umbrella. She provided an environment where a clinician scientist could continue to be an active clinician, but also pursue research and be a contributing member at a rigorous scientific level. She was committed to making sure clinician scientists were successful; not only me, but others as well."

"She understood that research was a fundamental part of the HSS mission, and she contributed to that when she was director of research, as well as after she stepped down from that role. She could have retired years ago, but didn't. She was always committed to pursuing science at a very high and rigorous level."

Dr. Bostrom says the key to understanding Dr. Boskey is "her amazing commitment to the next generation of scientists, particularly to orthopedic clinician scientists and also to women orthopedic scientists. Her mentorship was just amazing.”

Jane Salmon, M.D., a senior scientist and Collette Kean Research Chair at HSS, knew Dr. Boskey since 1982, when Dr. Salmon started working in the HSS Research Laboratory as a rheumatology fellow. Dr. Salmon, director, SLE APS (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus- Antiphospholipid) Center of Excellence at HSS, said, "She's always been a person with wisdom AND warmth. A basic scientist who asked clinically-derived questions. Dr. Boskey was supportive and understood the challenges of women working in science, as well as the opportunities. She was loving, supportive and nurturing, but with high standards. She was an amazing woman. She was an innovator."

Dr. Boskey patiently mentored many of those who are now leading the musculoskeletal field forward. They, and the many patients who benefit from her lifetime of astute intellectual observations, pay homage to Adele Boskey’s generosity and accomplishments.

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