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Lisa Westfield

Keeping a Family Legacy Alive with a Planned Gift

These funds are critical. They can make all the difference in the advancement of your work. I’ve been able to see it.

Lisa Westfield

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 Washington University.

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 story continues.”