Ram Yogev: The Go-To Guy

When you walk into Ram Yogev’s office, the first thing you notice is how welcoming it is. Filled with mementos from around the world, books lining the shelves and, best of all, drawings that children have made for him, the space reflects its occupant. “Rami”, as his friends and colleagues call him, greets the world with open arms.
Named director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program of Children’s Memorial Research Center in 2005, Rami put clinical research on the list of Children’s major accomplishments. He built the program, now called Clinical and Translational Research (CTR), from an idea into a high functioning entity that provides critical services to its members, who number over 125. Now he is stepping away to pursue the many clinical, research and advocacy functions he never put down.
“What is important to me is that we have a great group of people who can benefit a lot from a good infrastructure of clinical research. I was successful at building the program because I did things that people needed,” he says. Rami credits the research center leadership – Mary J. C. Hendrix, PhD, Phil Iannaccone, MD, PhD and Phil Spina, CRA – for this success. “They were fantastic. Whatever I needed, they would make sure I had it. I always had their support.”
Rami’s goal has been to make clinical research achievable for all faculty and fellows at Children’s. When he became director of CTR, he identified holes in the clinical research infrastructure. His dedication to building statistical support resulted in a service that is absolutely essential to successful research. He developed first-rate programs to educate clinical research professionals and fellows about conducting pediatric research. Among his other accomplishments was the centralization of information about clinical trials in which Children’s investigators are involved.
But more than all this, Rami served as a mentor to many faculty members who needed a way to begin their clinical research efforts. “He has literally jumpstarted multiple careers; by training physicians who will be able to carry on research, he has contributed to the number of clinician-scientists in the field. This is very important,” says his colleague Ellen Chadwick, MD, Irene Heinz Given and John LaPorte Given Chair in Pediatrics.
She should know. At the time when Chadwick was working on her fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Children’s, Rami introduced her to the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) group. Her first experience in a clinical trials leadership role was as second principal investigator on a protocol for which Rami was the principal investigator. He insisted that she take the lead, all the while providing backup as she learned how to run a multicenter study.
Rami fostered a research site in Thailand that was part of IMPAACT. As a result of his guidance, this group of Thai investigators is now successfully leading protocols. In Kenya, the Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics started by philanthropist Ann Lurie is one of the best clinics in the country. Lurie recently named Rami as the chief pediatrician consultant for the clinics, which he visits once or twice per year. “I see this as a fascinating opportunity and a gift,” he says. “I am constantly learning from the staff there. They are always trying to improve themselves.”
Ask others about Rami, and you will get a characteristic response: a big smile and expressions of admiration and affection. CTR coordinator Marianne Reed says, “He is supportive and encouraging. He knows how to develop people and maximize their strengths because he has insights into human nature.”
Bill Kabat, who manages the Special Infectious Diseases (ID) laboratory and has worked with Rami since the inception of the HIV program at Children’s comments, “We’ve come such a long way since we first started. Then, we had very little to offer children with HIV, and now some of his patients have been seeing him for 20 years. Maybe that’s why Rami’s working so hard. He wants to retire knowing that he put himself out of the HIV business.”
Chadwick describes him as a “life force”. She names groups as diverse as the Junior Council of Children’s to Rami’s patients to his staff in Special ID. “They absolutely love him, and they will do anything for him.”
Rami is characteristically cheerful and energized about his life post-CTR. “I owe the people in Special ID what they so amply gave back to me. Many studies are currently running. Because of my people’s hard work and their knowing what needed to be done, I could neglect that work a little. Now I can go back and pay attention.”
Breaking into a smile, he says, “I wouldn’t be able to do all this without my wife. She gives me unconditional support, and this makes it easier to stand changes in the wind when I’m trying to move forward.”
Ram Yogev, MD is director of the Section on Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal HIV Infection and attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s. He is Susan B. DePree Founders’ Board Professor in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.