Rudolf L. Brutoco ’74 is being honored by Western University of Health Sciences as a health care pioneer at its annual A Tribute to Caring gala on Nov. 9, 2013. He is receiving Western U’s highest award, the Elie Wiesel Humanism in Healing Award, presented to individuals who best represent the philosophy and values of the university and have actively incorporated them toward the betterment of the human condition.
Receiving the award is a tremendous honor, Dr. Brutoco said.
“Elie Wiesel devoted his life to humanism. It’s a tremendous affiliation and association,” he said. “It’s especially gratifying because my career has been multifaceted—personal health care, public health issues, philanthropic issues—but one thing that has connected my whole life’s work is regard for human beings and regard for the individual. So to have this award recognizing humanism places appropriate emphasis on the core value of my life’s work.”
A specialist in Behavioral and Developmental Medicine, with expertise in psychiatry, Dr. Brutoco’s career has been devoted to treating those with special needs, or going through temporary but difficult challenges. His professional goal has been to help individuals achieve their full potential, particularly when they encounter obstacles to personal happiness and fulfillment.
Dr. Brutoco’s wife, Diana ’74, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1988. She needed a bone marrow transplant to survive, but her family members weren’t a match and, at the time, few people were registered as donors.
Dr. Brutoco developed the concept and led an international grassroots movement to educate, motivate, recruit, test, finance and register bone marrow donors. The visionary Life-Savers Foundation of America formed synergistic relationships with huge agencies, institutions and non-governmental organizations, including the American Red Cross, National Institute of Health, Roche Lab and many others, in order to maximize the impact of the movement. Through Dr. Brutoco’s leadership of the Foundation, as well as leadership within the fledgling National Marrow Donor Program, the ranks of the donor pool rose exponentially in support of the new life-saving technique of bone marrow transplantation.
This effort brought together government officials, agency heads, top doctors and, most important, the public at large, Brutoco said. The doctor who performed Diana Brutoco’s successful marrow transplant received the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in bone marrow transplants. Dr. Brutoco himself received much acclaim for his work and leadership in promoting and facilitating marrow and stem cell transplants.
But this breakthrough medical technology was useless to those who could not find a donor match. For that technology to reach its full potential, it required a vast number of volunteers to come forth and say, “I will save the life of a stranger.” There are now more than 6 million Americans registered as volunteer “Life-Savers” through the donation of their marrow or stem cells.
“We’ve received a lot of expressions of gratitude through the years from patients’ families,” Brutoco said. “But we’ve received even more appreciation from donors. They got a chance to make a difference in the lives of someone else. We were blessed to be the facilitator of that. We are giving people a chance to be their best self. It’s a way to truly connect one soul to another in this shared human journey that is life. Through selfless donation of marrow and stem cells, and the acceptance of that by the recipient, goodness comes forward in the most essential way.”