In Memoriam: The Passing of a Platelet Pioneer, Dr. Marian Packham (1927-2020)

By Ed Pryzdial, Centre for Blood Research Associate Director

Dr. Ed Pryzdial (left) with Dr. Marian Packham (right) at the David Isenman Symposium in 2011. Retrieved from: UofT Isenman Symposium

It is with great sadness that I share news with the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) of the passing of Professor Marian Packham (1927-2020), an icon in hemostasis biochemistry. She was a Faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto from 1966-2008, where I did my doctoral work, and she continued there as Professor Emerita for quite some time. If your group has ever used washed platelets in their research, she’s the reason you were able to do so. Dr. Packham also provided us with the foundation for much of our understanding around how platelet function is modulated by receptor-transduced signals by noteworthy agents such as aspirin or ADP. Her ground-breaking work has been recognized by many awards, including a Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada and being named as a Member of the Order of Canada.

While Dr. Packham’s ~300 scientific publications certainly influenced the field, I feel that her real legacy is the numerous students she has guided into many scientific and medical disciplines. While she was not my immediate supervisor, the influence she had on my personal career was profound. Because of her excellence and the enthusiasm conveyed by those under her direct supervision, I chose courses and a comprehensive exam topic during graduate school that altered the direction of my postdoctoral training. Thus, I credit her for inspiring my CBR laboratory that works in the field of hemostasis biochemistry.

I am writing these words immediately following a panel that the CBR cohosted on equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM. The challenges that Dr. Packham must have endured as a woman in science during her tenure as a professor would have been monumental, making a comment from the Department Chair – which was heard by me as a newbie graduate student – even more remarkable: “Dr. Packham is the scientist with the best and most highly cited biochemical publication record in the Department”. Awesome! Dr. Packham achieved so much.

I am truly glad and proud to have crossed paths with Dr. Packham. While she spoke few words, even to those closest to her, they were always meaningful.