The CCR community is profoundly saddened by the passing of John J. DiGiovanna, M.D., Senior Research Physician in the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics. He died on February 6, 2023, more than two years after his diagnosis of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
John was a dedicated researcher at the NCI for over 40 years. He was an expert in the study of inherited skin disorders and worked extensively on the clinical characterization and underlying genetic causes of such diseases.
John earned his B.S. magna cum laude at SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island, NY, and received his M.D. from SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. He then completed an internship in internal medicine at Long Island Jewish Hospital and a residency in dermatology at the University of Miami. John came to the Dermatology Branch at NCI in 1980 to work with Gary Peck, M.D., on the development of treatments for dermatologic disorders and skin cancer chemoprevention. He was involved in pioneering studies of the use of oral retinoids for the treatment of acne and the prevention of skin cancer.
John became the Head of the Dermatology Clinical Research Unit in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in 1994. In 2000, John joined Kenneth Kraemer, M.D., in the CCR Basic Research Laboratory as a Research Investigator, and from 2010 on, served as part of the DNA Repair Section in the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics. He provided Clinical Center consultation for patients in protocols in the Undiagnosed Diseases Program and in many institutes. John’s other roles included serving as Director of the Division of Dermatopharmacology and Professor in the Department of Dermatology at Brown University and a staff physician at the Rhode Island Hospital. He was also a long-term consultant to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) overseeing dermatologic drugs and the FDA Pharmacy Compounding Advisory Committee.
Not only was John involved with the basic research to understand the fundamentals in his area of expertise, he also worked to bring these findings to help patients in need. “John had an exceptional ability to synthesize diverse clinical and laboratory information to further the understanding of complicated patients and provide a true ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach,” Kraemer says. “When attending basic science seminars, he frequently provided clinical insights that enriched the relevance of what was being presented.”
John authored more than 175 papers and 33 book chapters, and he contributed editing on one book. Throughout his career, John was a well-respected member of several prestigious dermatology societies, including the American Dermatological Association, the American Academy of Dermatology and the Washington D.C. Dermatological Society. He was also on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and the Dermatology Review. In 1998 he received an ad eundum M.A. from Brown University.
John was extensively involved in leading the next generation throughout his career, and sparked motivation in his colleagues. Many remarked on his kind and supportive nature.
Kenneth says, “He was determined to live his life to the fullest despite his cancer diagnosis. He never lost his sense of humor and bravely continued the research, mentoring and teaching that he loved.”
In memory of John, the family asks that contributions be made to the organizations that he most cared about: The Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. There will be a memorial service held for John at a date not yet determined.