In September, friends, family, classmates, and teachers gathered in Yale’s Battell Chapel to remember and honor Natasha Collins with words, music, and singing. Collins was a member of the medical school’s Class of 2012 who died of leukemia on August 12 at the age of 26. Her friends recalled a young woman of sensitivity, honesty, compassion, joy, and warmth.
“It was one of my favorite moments of each day—walking in, sitting next to her, and seeing her smile,” said classmate Whitney Sheen, as she recalled attending lectures with Collins, who also played violin in the Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra.
About five years ago, Collins was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and had been in remission after chemotherapy and a cord blood transplant. When the cancer returned in February, her classmates launched an international search for a bone marrow donor, but the effort was complicated because Collins was biracial, and an exact match was elusive.
“Unfortunately, they could never get a perfect match,” said associate professor of medicine Mark D. Siegel, M.D., at an August meeting held to inform the medical school community of the circumstances of Collins’s passing. “The leukemia got to the point where her only chance for survival was to go with a transplant with a slight mismatch,” said Siegel, who oversaw Collins’s care in her final days. After the transplant Collins developed a severe form of a liver syndrome, which led to multiple organ failure.
“What a great doctor she would have been,” said Nancy R. Angoff, M.P.H., M.D., associate dean for student affairs. “What better doctors we can each be because of her. She will shine on in us and make us better people and better doctors.”