Even as a child, Lisa Westfield had a knack for solving puzzles. In fact,
her parents realized that giving Lisa a mind-bending challenge was a
great way to keep their young daughter entertained. It turned out that
Lisa’s early drive to find answers was a quality that heralded her future
as a staff scientist at the Washington University School of Medicine.
Indeed, Lisa has spent most of her adult
life engaged in complex hematology
research. But she doesn’t think her
abilities are random. Instead, Lisa, who’s
a strong believer in genetic influence, is
convinced her love of science is inherited.
One might even say it’s in her blood.
Describing the science-related
backgrounds of several relatives, she
hones in on Tom, a maternal uncle. He
had worked in early photo reconnaissance
for the Army during World War II and
later joined the aerospace industry. After
he succumbed to lung cancer, Lisa and
her mother decided to honor him by
arranging a gift in their estate plans to
The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital
to support thoracic oncology research.
Fighting cancer is particularly important
to Lisa because it has claimed most of
her family members. In addition to Tom
and other relatives, Lisa’s father was
a victim of lung cancer and her mother
died from lymphoma. Cancer also took
another uncle, who was employed by
North American Rockwell and worked
on the Apollo 11, the first spacecraft to
land astronauts on the moon.
Because of that, Lisa is planning to
memorialize additional family members
with her gift.
“Setting up a legacy gift is one of the
nicest ways to honor a loved one,” she
says. “I’ve spent my career in research,
so I appreciate the need for money.”
A molecular biologist and protein chemist,
Lisa has spent more than 33 years as a
researcher. Most of her work has been
with the late pioneering hematologist
J. Evan Sadler, MD, PhD, a world-renowned
expert in the study and treatment of blood
clotting disorders and director of the
Division of Hematology at Washington
University School of Medicine. Dr. Sadler
died last year after a brief illness.
During her tenure with Dr. Sadler, Lisa
helped to sequence genes associated
with Von Willebrand disease (VWD),
a blood disorder in which the blood
does not clot properly. VWD is the most
common bleeding disorder, found in
about one in every 100 people in the
United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. VWD
is almost always inherited from a parent.
“It was a thrilling time to be in science,”
she says. “I’m very fortunate to be living
in the genetic era.”
Lisa, who also holds a Master of Laws,
recently began to expand her focus
of research by joining a lab headed
by Peggy Kendall, MD, the new Chief of
the Division of Allergy and Immunology
in the Department of Medicine at
Regardless of the type of medical
research, Lisa says most large amounts
of funding come from federal grants.
However, this type of support is highly
restricted, and gifts from donors can
be used for a wide range of important
purposes without being encumbered
by government limitations.
“Things come up in a lab. A couple
hundred dollars can pay for a chemical
that is badly needed. Or you can send
a researcher to an important conference.
It gives you the flexibility you don’t
have with regulated grants,” Lisa says.
“These funds are critical. They can make
all the difference in the advancement of
your work. I’ve been able to see it.”
In addition to knowing her gift is helping
other researchers, Lisa sees the fund as
a way to keep her family’s legacy alive.
She points to the long line of her
ancestors who include gunrunners in the
American Revolution; abolitionists; Union
soldiers in the Civil War; and veterans of
both world wars, Vietnam and Iraq.
“I’ve got some of that spirit in me,” she
says. “We are just a common family from
rural America but my relatives did their share. It’s a legacy that I’m proud of
and I’d like to make sure my family’s