Tiger Tracker: Mark W. Brunvand
When Mark Brunvand is asked what he did following his 1974 graduation from Summit High School, his answer is “continuous school since the Beegees had their last hit.”Brunvand graduated from Colorado State University in 1978 with a degree in chemistry. He then attended the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where he matriculated with his medical degree – with honors. Brunvand’s resume continues on to list an internship, a two-year residency at the health sciences center, two fellowships – one at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in Maryland, the other at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., – and then posts as an associate in clinical research at the Hutchinson center and director of unrelated donor transplantation at Oregon Health Sciences University. Brunvand is now a physician specializing in blood cancer and bone marrow transplantation, as well as the director of unrelated donor transplantation and radiation injury treatment network at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute in Denver.While working in Oregon in 1996, Brunvand met a 2-and-a-half-year-old child named Claire. She was visiting her father, a patient in the oncology ward.”Claire would visit her dad but was intimidated by the laminar airflow room in which her father was being treated,” Brunvand said. “After her 2-year-old attention span was overwhelmed she would come out to visit the nurses and physicians at the desk.”Claire would help Brunvand complete his rounds, something that seemed to help her deal with her father’s condition.”It certainly helped the patients to get a daily smile from a charming and precocious child,” he said. “To my surprise, after her father died she wanted her friend Dr. Mark to come to her third birthday party.”Claire, her mother Ruchi and Brunvand continued to keep in contact, even after he moved to Denver in 1997.”In 1999 we became a family when Ruchi and I got married,” Brunvand said. “To complete the triad, Claire was our flower girl.”
Brunvand said the most valuable lessons he learned in high school were the problem-solving and study skills he developed; processes that have helped him “daily” since graduation. The “wonderful cast of characters” who helped him along include: Tony Toston, biology teacher; John Thorpe, math teacher; Bert Snyder, chemistry teacher; and Dorothy Osborne and Jon Kreamelmeyer, both English teachers. Ski team coaches Bob Bowers and Jim Matsen provided Brunvand with interesting lessons in both life and skiing.Brunvand said he remembers competing on the ski and soccer teams with “Steve Prefontaine-type runs at 10,000-feet.” During his junior year, he compressed his T4 vertebral body in a ski accident, which taught him how quickly a skiing career can end. The incident convinced him to instead study chemistry and ultimately medicine.He remembers Karin Langel, “a charming young woman with a great laugh who died far too young in a car accident.”Brunvand also remembers the people he worked with at the Holiday Inn in Frisco.”These people helped me develop as a person and they remain some of my closest friends,” he said. “It still amazes me how people I worked with in the restaurant almost 40 years ago have grown and the friendships that we forged. I thank them for having the compassion to allow a 16-year-old kid to hang out with them.”In his present life, Brunvand said he has had the good fortune to work with multiple Nobel Laureates and thought leaders in medicine and science, including Don Thomas, who won the Nobel Prize in 1990.”I feel blessed with my family and the career,” Brunvand said. “I know that this sounds trite but in my case it is true.”
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