Many readers knew Dr. Coutre as an important CLL/SLL researcher, and as an excellent, compassionate clinician at Stanford in Palo Alto, California. I also knew him as a great teacher, both lecturing to fellow physicians and to patients, and I was lucky to share the podium with him a few times.
What many of us, myself included, did not know is that Dr. Coutre was himself a chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient and that his passing was related to complications of COVID-19.
Here is the obituary from Stanford Medicine that provides some highlights of his life and professional career.
The San Francisco CLL Society Support Group dedicated their December 2021 meeting to his memory, and also their concerns about their future care since many were his patients. His colleagues, Drs. Shanafelt and Liedtke, kindly attended to answer all questions and hear their tributes.
One underlying concern I sensed (but that never rose to the level of a direct question) was: If a world-class CLL expert who has access to all the best possible care at one of the finest teaching hospitals in the world dies of COVID-19, what chances does an ordinary CLL/SLL patient have?
The answer is that the majority of those with CLL/SLL who catch COVID-19 do well, although the mortality rate is still much higher than those with a normal immune system.
We don’t know all the details of Dr. Coutre’s health, his co-morbidities, his treatment status, or his medications. Any one of them may have lowered his chances of recovery.
It’s been said if you know one CLL patient, you know one CLL patient. We are all unique.
The same is true of COVID-19. If it is anything, it is unpredictable. Most CLL/SLL patients do fine, but not all, as Dr. Coutre’s sad passing reminds us.
Our hearts go out to Dr. Coutre’s family, friends, colleagues, and patients. He will be mightily missed.
ASH Clinical News published in January this remembrance that quotes from this page.
Stay strong. We are all in this together.
Brian Koffman MDCM (retired) MS Ed (he, him, his)
Co-Founder, Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer
CLL Society, Inc.