Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of the lab to hear what makes them tick. This month, we chat with Keith Glaser, director, portfolio management, AbbVie.
Renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau once famously said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Words to live by for a young, impressionable Keith Glaser, whose early (and vicarious) adventures alongside Cousteau’s televised Calypso crew solidified his predilection for the vast ocean and all of its underwater delights. And though life would eventually throw many unexpected twists and turns Keith’s way, his early penchant for the exploration of uncharted worlds never wavered. So much so that his current days and nights are dedicated to unearthing discoveries of a different sort.
Tell us the story of how you fell in love with science.
I may be dating myself, but it was the “Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” that first captured my attention. Episodes depicting the overwhelming curiosity to discover new marine species, explorations of uncharted parts of our oceans and how we, as humans, could change our impact on the oceans were life-altering. Alongside the crew of the Calypso, I became intoxicated with exploring the unknown. I wanted to better understand the behavior of marine animals, as well as why and how we affect our environment through the oceans and the animals that live there.
I understand you had a liver transplant in 2006. Can you share a little of what this experience was like, and how it ultimately affected your future?
Certain life experiences help define what is important in our lives. Up until 2006, my health was failing due to an autoimmune liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis which was diagnosed in 1996. Predominantly found in males, this disease finds the body attacking the biliary system in the liver, which causes it to slowly lose function over time (10 years in my case). In 2014, a backup of bile in my liver ultimately led to bacteria getting into the blood stream and I developed sepsis. Enrolled in the Kovler Transplant Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, my name was placed on the official transplant list.
Toward the end, I was taking 14-16 pills every morning and evening and yet my symptoms were barely being managed. This is when my Hepatologist bluntly said, “instead of just waiting for cancer to form in your liver due to this inflammatory disease, you should consider a living donor instead of waiting on the transplant list.” This was an extremely tough discussion with the family … not only who to approach, but who might want to make the potentially life-altering decision to donate part of their liver.
As luck would have it, my wife’s cousin, Amy, became adamant that she be considered first. So just after her 34th and my 46th birthdays, she donated two-thirds of her liver to me, giving me a real second chance at living a full and productive life. The moral of this story: if someone gives you a second chance at life, start doing what you love and make sure you enjoy every second of it – being with family, scientific discovery and in my case, scuba diving.