A Mother’s Encouragement and a Husband-Wife Doctor Team Set the Stage for a Career in Hematologic Oncology

Jane N. Winter, MD

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Lymphoma expert Jane N. Winter, MD, grew up on the south shore of Long Island in New York. “My dad sold cars in my great uncle’s dealership after a failed foray into business after World War II. My mom graduated high school at 16 to go to work to help support her family. When my younger brother went off to kindergarten, she went back to school to take college prerequisites, then to a community college, then to college, and ultimately to graduate school, where she completed a master’s degree in learning disabilities. I think my mom was the driving force in my decision to become a physician; when I told her I wanted to be a nurse, having read the Cherry Ames book series, she said, ‘No, you’ll be a doctor,’ which was pretty forward-thinking for a woman in the 1950s,” she related. “I have two brothers who have been amazing in terms of their successes, both executives at Fortune 500 companies, and have always been very supportive.”



Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology; a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University; and a hematologist at Northwestern Medicine


University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine, Philadelphia


“We have certainly made progress in closing the gender gap, but it’s definitely challenging for young women who want to balance a career and a family. It’s never going to be easy, because there is never enough time for everything we want to do. However, being persistent and confident in yourself is key. In short, join societies such as ASH and ASCO, and when you have an opportunity, seize it.”

Dr. Winter continued: “I also had a very unusual set of pediatricians, a husband-wife team, who influenced my perception of medicine. Their office was on the first floor of their home, and their children would play in the yard while one of them saw patients, and the other made house calls. If I was sick, my mom would say, ‘Dr. Bea is in the office, and Dr. Philip is making house calls. Who do you want to see?’ I didn’t think twice that Dr. Beatrice was a physician.”

On the Cusp of the Women’s Movement

It was totally serendipitous that I wound up at a women’s college, the same college Dr. Bea had attended. I was recruited to Bryn Mawr by friends of my parents who really wanted me to date their son, who was applying to nearby Haverford. As it happened, I was invited to a Bryn Mawr Alumnae Association reception where I met the most amazing group of professional women. That just sealed the deal for me as to which college I wanted to attend. Bryn Mawr was a very intellectually challenging place, which, in many ways, laid the foundation for my career path and my world view,” she said. “I majored in philosophy and spent a year at the London School of Economics studying Philosophy of Science, a field I keep hoping to revisit.”

Valued Early Mentors

During her undergraduate years at Bryn Mawr, Dr. Winter spent free time in Philadelphia, which influenced her next step. “I loved Philadelphia, so the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine seemed like a natural transition. It was career-shaping in many ways. For example, I encountered Dr. John Glick, who later became Penn’s Cancer Center Director but also my housemate’s beloved hematologist-oncologist. I also spent an invaluable month rotating at Fox Chase, where I had amazing experiences caring for patients with all types of malignancies but particularly patients with leukemia and lymphoma,” she explained.

Asked what “sealed the deal” for her decision to pursue blood malignancies, Dr. Winter replied: “It’s fairly common for important experiences during medical school to impact a student’s career choice. I had some very engaging rotations as a medical student, particularly with hematologists who impressed me. I also had a close childhood friend who developed Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent treatment with Dr. Glick while living with me during my second year of medical school. In retrospect, that experience in addition to the role models I encountered during medical school and residency likely determined my direction.”

Dr. Winter added: “I loved looking under the microscope at blood smears, bone marrow, and lymph node biopsies, and I especially enjoyed integrating the pathology with the clinical picture. Some of my best mentors were hematopathologists.”

Brief Indecision

After attaining her medical degree in 1977 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Dr. Winter decided on another big city experience for her internship and internal medicine residency at the University of Chicago, where her interest in the hematologic malignancies was further encouraged by rotations with Dr. John Ultmann and Dr. Harvey Golomb, both of whom played major roles at ASCO. “But I also liked bedside cardiology and found myself being strong-armed by the Chief of Cardiology to stay on as a cardiology fellow. Did I really want to be an interventionalist, passing catheters all day and wearing a lead apron?”

Dr. Winter continued: “Luckily, I had a good friend—‘the other Jane’ from college—who was an internal medicine resident at Columbia, where Dr. Rose Ruth Ellison was the new head of oncology and the attending on Jane’s General Medicine rotation. Jane told Dr. Ellison that she had a friend who might be interested in hematology/oncology and Rose Ruth said, ‘Bring her tomorrow.’ So, I showed up and signed on. Truth be told, my goal in life at that time was a subscription to the New York City Ballet, a passion Jane and I share. So, that’s how I wound up at Columbia,” she related.

As it turned out, Dr. Winter’s fellowship at Columbia was cut short by unforeseen circumstances. “Within the first weeks of my fellowship, the head of the cancer center, Dr. Paul Marks, left to become President of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and took with him the Division Chief of Hematology, Dr. -Richard Rifkind. Soon thereafter, one of Columbia’s best -hematologists, Dr. Hymie Nossel, had a massive heart attack. The place seemed to be decimated.”

At the same time, Dr. Winter had become increasingly committed to her soon-to-be husband, Dr. Richard Larson, a then budding leukemia expert. “He had been a resident with me and had stayed at the University of Chicago for fellowship,” Dr. Winter explained. “Fortunately, a second-year position in the fellowship program at Northwestern became available unexpectedly and I had the opportunity to work in Dr. Alan Epstein’s lab making monoclonal antibodies—then very new and exciting—to the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cell lines that Alan had developed while a graduate student at Stanford.

An Opportunity to Grow

Dr. Winter took the faculty position at Northwestern University. Asked whether there were other reasons for her decision besides a serendipitous job opening, she commented: “Actually, there was an opportunity at the University of Chicago, but I needed my own space, separate from my husband, which Northwestern offered. Moreover, I was attracted to Alan’s work in large cell lymphoma and the opportunity to focus on lymphoma clinically.”

Dr. Winter shared how this opportunity started small but grew. “When I came to Northwestern, the clinical trials office was the size of a closet. It was very much a private practice kind of place, with a very small, full-time, academic faculty. However, soon after arriving as a second-year fellow, I saw that I could be part of a team that was building something for the future. When offered the opportunity to stay on as a faculty member, I seized the opportunity and have been here ever since. Over the years, we have turned the institution into a real powerhouse, which has been immensely rewarding. I work with absolutely terrific scientists and clinicians, with a top-notch support system from the top down.”

In addition to her many accomplishments, Dr. -Winter also served as President of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) for a year-long term (2021–2022). She has been a member of ASH for -nearly 40 years, and during that time, she has served in various leadership roles representing the Society.

A Busy Schedule

Asked to briefly describe the focus of her current work, Dr. Winter replied: “My path has been anything but linear. My work making monoclonal antibodies to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cell lines led me to bone marrow purging with my own antibodies to remove malignant lymphoma cells from bone marrow harvests for patients undergoing stem cell transplants. Early on, I had collaborations with faculty on Northwestern’s Evanston campus expanding hematopoietic progenitors ex vivo for use in bone marrow transplant patients. And, similarly with another project here on the Chicago campus in megakaryocytopoiesis. We had funding from the Department of Defense to support these projects. I had a period where I was very involved in transplantation and even ran our fledgling bone marrow transplant program, but eventually focused on clinical and translational investigation in lymphoma.”

Dr. Winter had a long career looking at prognostic markers in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. “That grew out of my initial laboratory experience in Alan’s lab. My goal from the start was to sort out the clinical and biologic heterogeneity of the diffuse large B-cell lymphomas. And 40 years later, it remains an elusive goal. Over time, that work became more molecularly based at a level I was not prepared to lead. So, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with folks who are much better equipped to address those kinds of questions at a genetic level. My clinical investigation has focused in recent years on Hodgkin lymphoma, more specifically on the use of checkpoint inhibition in both previously untreated and relapsed patients. We just launched a new clinical trial in patients with newly diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma, building on our prior trials, further shifting from chemotherapy to immunotherapy. This trial will also compare circulating tumor DNA and imaging with FDG-PET. Like all my recent projects, I’ve partnered with one of my fellows, Megan Melody. It’s my greatest pleasure to see my mentees develop and succeed.”

Challenges Ahead

Given that Dr. Winter’s career began contemporaneously with the women’s rights movement, she reflected on the difference between now and then for a young woman entering the field. “We have certainly made progress in closing the gender gap,” she noted, “but it’s definitely challenging for young women who want to balance a career and a family. It’s never going to be easy, because there is never enough time in the day for everything we want to do. However, being persistent and confident in yourself is key. In short, join societies such as ASH and ASCO, and when you have an opportunity, seize it.”

Dr. Winter shared some thoughts on mentorship relationships: “I didn’t have an easy time of it early on; mentorship wasn’t what it is today. Today, young trainees are very aggressive about seeking out mentorship relationships. When I was coming up, I had a career development award where my ‘mentor’ met with me only to put his signature on the grant but never sat down or communicated with me. Members of the current generation know what they need to get from a mentorship relationship. Choose wisely, I always say, in your collaborators, mentors, and spouses; be careful about how you invest your precious time and energy and who you look to for help”

Decompression Time

What does a super-busy oncology leader do to decompress? “I have a 19th-century house, so there’s always a project underway, and I live in an amazing city, where there’s so much to discover and experience. I have two wonderful sons and daughters-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren to spoil. I still go to the ballet, and I’m actually making it a bigger priority recently. My husband and I walk and ride the lakefront, which is a great way to keep centered and relax. And I love my work. I’ve had a long and rewarding career and still fully enjoy my patients, my colleagues, and my trainees,” commented Dr. Winter.