Dr. Clara Derber Bloomfield was born in Flushing, New York and was a graduate of the Uni High Class of 1959. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Biology from San Diego State College and completed her M.D. at the University of Chicago in 1968.
After receiving her medical degree, she focused her energies on clinical research and completed a residency in internal medicine and medical oncology, making waves as the first female full professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota. There, she confronted the issue of pay discrimination for women, recalling that when she was promoted to the status of a full professor, “My husband also worked at the university. When the head of medicine called me into his office, he said, ‘Congratulations on the promotion, Clara, but because your husband makes such a good salary, we’ve decided not to give you a raise.’”
Dr. Bloomfield’s groundbreaking research transformed cancer treatments, challenging long-held views in academia. Dr. Bloomfield and her team were the first to discover the Philadelphia chromosome in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, as well as the biochemical and genetic markers that are crucial in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. She was also the first to prove that adults with leukemia could be treated by chemotherapy. Her work has been used by internationally accepted categorization systems for blood illnesses, including that of the World Health Organization. According to Dr. Bloomfield, “We now cure 40% of adult patients between the age of 16 and 60 with primary (de novo) acute leukemia.”
In 1989, Dr. Bloomfield became chair of the department of medicine at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and in 1997, she became the director of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center as well as deputy director of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. In 2003, she became the charter member of The Ohio State Cancer Scholars program and senior advisor to The Ohio State cancer program.
After 50 years of groundbreaking research and relentless advocacy for women in academia, Dr. Bloomfield passed away at the age of 77 in Columbus, Ohio. She held the William Greenville Pace III Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at Ohio State and served on the board of directors of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research. She served as chair of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Division of Cancer Treatment Board of Scientific Counselors, and was elected to the USA Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (presently called the National Academy of Medicine).