Philip Robert Greipp, M.D., 77, passed away Tuesday evening, Feb. 11 at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, from complications of an acute illness and a previous stroke. Dr. Greipp was a beloved multiple myeloma specialist who practiced at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Dr. Greipp was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 15, 1943. He attended schools in Drexell Hill and Philadelphia, where he and his brother became experts at rowing. Dr. Greipp earned a B.S. at St. Joseph's University on a full scholarship for rowing and graduated in 1964. He was inducted into the St. Joseph's University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011, having rowed "stroke seat" for one of the winningest teams on the East Coast in the early '60s. He graduated from Georgetown University Medical School in 1968 and he married Maureen O'Connor that year. They were married for 44 years.
He embarked on his joint passion for pathology and internal medicine at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and began his research career at the National Institutes of Health, where he focused on the perfect combination of pathology and medicine -- hematology. During this time he jointly served as Commander in the Public Health Services until 1971 when he moved to Rochester and joined the Mayo Clinic Internal Medicine Residency program and went on to excel in the Hematology Fellowship Program.
Dr. Greipp joined the staff of Mayo Clinic in 1975, where he led an exemplary career achieving Professor Medicine and Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and is remembered by his colleagues and patients as a model physician, mentor to numerous trainees, early adopter of computer technology, and friend to so many. Dr. Greipp was fiercely dedicated to his patients. As an example, they nominated "Dr. Phil" to be a torchbearer for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
He is recognized across the world for his contributions to the understanding of the disease, multiple myeloma, for which he is known for the development of the plasma cell labeling index, a key measure for the aggressivity of multiple myeloma in patients. He is also known for leading the development of a pivotal International Staging System for multiple myeloma. Dr. Greipp published over 400 scientific manuscripts, book chapters and other publications and also received two patents. Dr. Greipp reveled in teaching in the medical school and also enjoyed delivering numerous invited lectures around the globe. He led many important clinical trials and chaired the Multiple Myeloma Committee of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group. Dr. Greipp also recognized early on the importance of establishing consented specimen biobanking at Mayo Clinic for research purposes. He inspired his daughter, Patricia, to study medicine and she is driven to serve patients every day by his example. She currently is Section Head of the Malignant Hematology Section of the Genomics Laboratory at Mayo Clinic and also leads the Cytogenetics Core Research Laboratory.
"Coach Phil" was one of the earliest members of the Rochester Rowing Club, where he inspired and trained numerous young rowers in Rochester as coach and President of the Club from 1993 to 2015.
He coached and taught by three principals. The first two, coming from his brother, Joe: 1) It's not about you... it's about the sport and the rowers. When it becomes about you, your ego, your betterment, you need to stop. 2) Don't be afraid to try something new. 3) Break bread together. Be a team on and off the water.
Myeloma patient Jim Bond shared his experience with Dr. Greipp.
My wife, Kathleen, and I traveled from Ohio to the Mayo Clinic and met Phil Greipp for a second opinion on my cancer, multiple myeloma. His intelligence, kindness and compassion reinforced his valuable advice. That was over 25 years ago. Phil and I stayed in contact and became friends.
At one crucial point, my local oncologist told me there was nothing left that could control the cancer. He said to go to a hospice. Instead, I called Phil and asked for advice. He advised me to enter a clinical trial for an experimental drug showing promising results for very sick myeloma patients like me.
The clinical trial saved my life; the drug is now called Velcade and Phil is the reason I did not die 2 decades ago. We miss you but will never forget you, Phil.
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of Myeloma Crowd by HealthTree and the HealthTree Foundation.