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Tufts University School of Medicine

A Meticulous Doctor, a Dedicated Volunteer

John Erban was a featured speaker at his thirty-fifth reunion in 2016. The breast cancer clinician and researcher has given time to his alma mater in many ways, including serving as medical editor of Tufts Medicine magazine. Photo: Matthew Healey
Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 7:00pm

The photo on the last page of the Tufts University School of Medicine Class of 1981 yearbook captures its editors playing a board game as they sip wine. Seated on the left and sporting a mustache emblematic of the day is editor-in-chief John Erban.

Producing the yearbook could be painful, Erban recalled recently, using a saltier expression, but it was “a good exercise to get to know everybody and get a feel for how institutions record and retain historical information.”

That experience proved useful nine years later when the school needed a new medical editor for its well-established alumni publication, just renamed Tufts Medicine. They called on Erban, then an assistant professor of medicine and a member of the world-renowned hematology/oncology division at Tufts Medical Center.

Erban served in the volunteer editorial post for nearly thirty years, while earning acclaim as a clinician and researcher specializing in breast cancer, eventually becoming clinical director of Tufts Cancer Center and a School of Medicine professor. Although he set aside the editorial reins in August 2019, following surgery for brain cancer, he continues to inspire.

As medical editor, Erban was responsible for making sure the publication got the medicine right, as its tone evolved from “folksy” to more professional. “As an editor, you realized that there was a lot of incredible stuff going on at the school in most departments, from neuroscience to pediatrics,” he said, “and we did a pretty decent job of covering discoveries.”

Over the years, the magazine benefited from Erban’s insight and the same commitment to asking questions that helped make him a formidable clinician and scientist. “Jack Erban is the best physician I’ve ever met,” said David Wazer, professor of radiation oncology and radiation oncologist-in-chief at Tufts Medical Center. “The meticulousness with which he applies the scientific method in careful analysis of data toward patient management is extraordinary, and his wealth of knowledge is encyclopedic. He combines this with a human touch that to this day I still learn from.”

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