On December 20, 2018, Steve Katz, the acting director of the National Institute for skeletomuscular disease and skin (NIAMS) passed away.
Steve Katz truly was one of the giants of Dermatology and his influence on dermatological science worldwide is beyond comparison. Steve was the long-term acting Chief of the Dermatology Branch at NIH. During his term multiple now famous dermatologists passed through his lab as postdocs (e.g. K. Cooper, G. Stingl, S. Shimada and many others). This by itself indicates how strong Steve’s influence was for the scientific developments in dermatology as he formed a new generation of international leaders in dermatology that showed a strong interest in science and were willing to spread the news that science is key for future developments of our specialty.
It was Steve who never tired of stressing publicly that dermatology would not only benefit from good science, but that dermatological science would be crucial for the benefit of our patients and also for the survival of our subject. Therefore, mentoring meant a lot to Steve. I myself had the pleasure to be educated in his lab (1990-1992) as postdoc and certainly my future career was heavily influenced by what he taught me (as, I am sure, is true for many of his apprentices). I will never forget the many discussions we had on science, dermatology, and the art of living a good life – these were lessons that are still treasures to me. Although Steve was already famous when I entered his lab, he liked to surprise visitors by taking them to his tiny office at the Derm. Branch (app. 3sqm). This not only showed his good sense of humor, but also his complete lack of any hubris. He knew who he was, but he did not have to show off to anyone.
Steve’s influence became even stronger when he was selected as Director of NIAMS in 1995 which he has remained ever since. He now was not only responsible for Dermatology but equally took care of Rheumatology and related specialties – all with the same intensity and vigour. His honors and awards are numerous and would be beyond the scope of this memorial statement. However, I know that Steve was especially proud of being the secretary general of the WCD in New York in 1992. This, besides his co-editorship of the Fitzpatrick textbook, is a strong indication that although being a great scientist and mentor of scientific dermatology, Steve was always very interested in the clinical aspects of dermatology and its future well-being.
Finally, it is appropriate to remember Steve Katz truly as one of the last living “role-models” for scientific dermatology. He showed young clinicians/researchers that life and science in dermatology can be fun and fulfilling. He had time for everyone, great and small, and he will be missed.
Alexander H. Enk
Note: The ESDR thanks Alexander Enk and the EDF for permission to reproduce this obituary.