The years 1997 to 2003 were personally tumultuous for Dr. Liang. His marriage of 26 years ended, and in 2000 he underwent an emergent six-vessel bypass for unstable angina. In 2003, after two chest surgeries for a rare Streptococcus millerei empyema, he pronounced his friend Dr. Daltroy dead; he died of melanoma. He reflected, “His death was the last connection to a wonderful period of my life and made it possible for me to move on. I needed to do it also, as Carly Simon put it, to find the poet in me again.” He started anew as a volunteer chief of rheumatology to reorganize and build the affiliate program at the VA; as a principal at the Veterans Administration Cooperative Studies Program, the oldest clinical trials units in the world; and by building a new research program on studying the use of the Internet for public health applications. In 2004, he married Diane Garthwaite, whom he met on a blind date.
Explore this issueOctober 2009
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Dr. Liang as Mentor
Those who have trained and collaborated with Dr. Liang describe a profound influence from his leadership. Rowland W. (“Bing”) Chang, MD, MPH, professor of preventive medicine, medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, was Dr. Liang’s first fellow at the center. “My work has always been interdisciplinary,” remarks Dr. Chang, “and I think it all started with Matt. I found him to be amazingly open to new ideas. He was always looking for people who would have ideas that would move the field ahead. His projects really showed me how much better things can be if you bring a lot of other people from different perspectives to the table to help think about a problem.”
Many of Dr. Liang’s trainees went on to become leaders in their own right and have been recipients of the 2001, 2006, and 2007 ACR Henry Kunkel Awards; the Edward Dubois Award in 1988 and in 2001; Outstanding Clinical Scientist (Canada); Outstanding Young Investigator (American Bone and Mineral Society); Outstanding Young Investigator (American Nutrition Society); the 2006 Pfizer Prize; the 2001 Outstanding Research Award; the 2002, 2004, and 2007 Best Professor Awards at Hanyang University; the 2006 Seok-Young GSK Medical Scholar Award; the 2007 Freedom of Movement Award; the 2008 APLAR Distinguished Clinical Scientist; the Jean and Linette Warnery Prize; and the Hirzel-Callegari Prize, among others.