Nancy and Buster Alvord Endowed Chair in Neuropathology
The Nancy and Buster Alvord Endowed Chair in Neuropathology, established in 1999, was created to help the University of Washington attract and retain a distinguished faculty member in neuropathology, the study of diseases of the nervous system.
Nancy D. Alvord and the late Ellsworth C. “Buster” Alvord, Jr., M.D., supported the Department of Pathology with annual contributions for many years, and they and their children and older grandchildren initiated this endowment to assist the department in maintaining and improving the neuropathology laboratory.
Dr. Alvord’s interests included teaching, research and service and studies in neuro-embryology, neuro-anatomy, neuro-physiology, neuro-pathology, neuro-immunology, neuro-radiology and clinical neurology — the following paragraphs explain his work in more detail. Given these interests, it is the Alvord family’s wish that the faculty member appointed to the endowed chair should ideally have a broad view of the whole field.
Dr. Alvord graduated from Haverford College (B.S. 1944) and Cornell University (M.D. 1946) and did residencies in pathology and neuropathology (New York Hospital, 1946–48), the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (1950-51), and neurology (Walter Reed Army Hospital, 1948–50). He also trained in experimental neurophysiology (Army Medical Services Graduate School 1951–53) before turning full-time to neuropathology (National Institutes of Health (NIH), 1953–55), Baylor University Medical College (1955–60), and, finally, the University of Washington in 1960.
Buster Alvord began his teaching career by tutoring classmates in mathematics. His earliest research grant was prompted by Dr. Louis D. Stevenson’s remark that “Multiple sclerosis (MS) must be due to allergy.” Approved but not funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Alvord’s research in MS was supported by Dr. John G. Kidd at Cornell and facilitated by Dr. Jules Freund, who had just developed immunological adjuvants.
Dr. Alvord’s research on experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) and its relation to MS was greatly enhanced by 35 years of collaboration with Dr. Marian W. Kies, a biochemist at the NIH, who discovered myelin basic protein and determined many of its immunological reactions. This work culminated in the hypothesis that MS is triggered by immunological events (bacterial and viral infections in early life that set the stage for resistance or susceptibility to MS decades later) with cross reactions to myelin basic protein and the prediction that MS could be prevented by infantile vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella.
Later work done by Dr. Alvord was related to tumor growth, and it was stimulated in large part by Dr. Vincent P. Collins, a professor of radiology at Baylor, who developed what came to be known as Collins’ Law. Dr. Alvord also worked with colleagues, including Kristin Swanson, Ph.D., in the University of Washington’s Department of Applied Mathematics — under Prof. James D. Murray — leading to the development of mathematical models of the growth and diffusion of gliomas. Dr. Alvord also collaborated with many colleagues on normal and abnormal development of the human nervous system and on neuro-degenerative diseases.
Dr. Alvord maintained a strong interest in education. He developed a computer-assisted laser disc on neuropathology, a series of courses integrating anatomy and pathology for pre-medical students, medical students and residents in neurology, neurosurgery, pathology and neuropathology. Throughout several decades at the University, he established consultative services with many hospitals and medical services (including Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Valley General Hospital, Madigan Army Hospital, St. Peter Hospital, and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office) in addition to those formally affiliated with the UW at the time: Seattle Children’s, Harborview Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and UW Medical Center.
Dr. Alvord passed away on Jan. 19, 2010, at the age of 86.
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