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Pace Scholarship Blooms from Love of Nurturing Students, Scientists

Betty Pace, MD

Alongside numerous discoveries and accolades from their work in sickle cell disease research, Betty Pace, MD ’81, GME ’84, and members of her nationally recognized laboratory have produced at least one valuable commodity that is not a scientific outcome – a superior learning experience that launches careers.

Dr. Pace has mentored more than 80 trainees from high school students to junior faculty, with more than 60 percent from racial/ethnic backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine. Many are now scientists with National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and other extramural grants.

It is her love of helping young people reach their potential that led to the recent establishment of the Betty S. Pace, MD, Endowed Scholarship Fund at MCW.

“I really feel a need and a commitment to help young investigators and young physicians early on,” she says, “especially underrepresented students who want to follow my path. My training at MCW gave me the foundation for my success as a physician scientist. It made me who I am.”

The “who” she wanted to be was clarified at age 12, when she first saw her best friend suffer the debilitating pain of sickle cell disease – and resolved to become a scientist to help find a cure. That path was refined when Dr. Pace earned her MD degree at MCW, completed a pediatrics residency at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (now Children’s Wisconsin) and led MCW’s Comprehensive Sickle Cell Program.

Since 1994, when Dr. Pace established a basic research lab focused on sickle cell disease at the University of South Alabama, her work has been funded by the NIH. Having led other programs and earning national recognition (including a stint as chief medical officer for the National Sickle Cell Disease Association of America), she now serves as the Francis J. Tedesco Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Hematology Oncology at the Georgia Cancer Center, Augusta.

Dr. Pace calls all of it a “dream come true.” As she looks toward capping her brilliant career, Dr. Pace will explore more unscientific talents in retirement. “When I was growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, I really loved art and actually toyed with being an artist for a while,” Dr. Pace recalls, “but then medicine and science sent me down another track for 50 years.”

(Originally published in the Annual Report/Fall 2019 MCW Magazine)