The following is an email sent to BU’s Center for Regenerative Medicine by director Darrell Kotton on the death of research fellow Anita Kurmann:
I write with great sadness to let you know that our own Anita Kurmann, a postdoctoral fellow in my lab, died in a tragic bike accident on Friday morning.
Anita was an accomplished thyroid surgeon who came to the US from Switzerland to learn basic science research in the co-mentored environment of the CReM and Tony Hollenberg’s thyroid laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess medical center. With the help of many of you she excelled, mastering difficult techniques of stem cell culture and applying her impressive surgical skills to deliver her cells to successfully rescue hypothyroid mice. In a remarkably short time she was able to make incredible progress in the lab, but most impressive of all she was one of the most selfless people I know. She gave of her time so generously to many of us and cared deeply about the success and mission of her team mates. Despite all her accomplishments she was humble, soft spoken, kind and felt the most joy when celebrating the successes of her colleagues. Because of her aversion to bragging, few people were aware that she was due to be appointed Chief of Endocrine Surgery at the end of this year, taking over the Department of her mentor in Switzerland, as part of her planned return to Bern. She was to continue to operate on patients as well as launch her own lab as a PI in order to continue her thyroid research.
Anita brought out the best in all of us, and indeed was herself unanimously beloved and regarded as exemplary in all that she did; she was intelligent, well-read, hard working, creative, and a trusted friend. Anita dedicated her life to her patients and her work, believing that her role as a surgeon scientist could most help those who suffer from thyroid diseases. She trained hard to be the best surgeon and researcher she could be, and she reported that completing her co-first authored manuscript representing her years of research in the CReM was one of her happiest and most proud moments.
Anita was close to many of us, and and the shock and grief we feel at this loss is overwhelming. She was a regular early morning presence in the cell culture room and spent long hours with many of us developing her project. She found out with great joy that her work was accepted for publication just days before her death and spoke often about how important her work was to her.
In the week ahead Tony Hollenberg and I will organize a memorial service for Anita. We are all shocked and saddened by this sudden loss of someone so dear to us who was so young and had such a bright future ahead of her.