A Tribute to Dr Stephen Katz (ILDS President, 1997-2002)
25 March 2019
By Harvey Lui, on behalf of the ILDS Board of Directors
Much has been said and written about the singularly exceptional and productive career of Dr. “Steve” Katz who passed away in December 2018. For the international dermatology community, Steve’s influence extended over all continents and in many different ways. In his role as an investigative dermatologist he recruited and mentored countless young dermatologists and scientists from around the world to the US National Institutes of Health, which in turn led to an explosion of new fundamental and applied knowledge about skin immunology and how it affects human health. At the time of his death, Steve was in active public service as the Director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health and Skin Diseases.
Not only was Dr Katz an outstanding scientist, he was legendary for his organisational skills and ability to bring people together towards a common purpose. In 1992, he was the Secretary-General for the 18th World Congress of Dermatology in New York City, and five years later he assumed the presidency of the ILDS until 2002. Steve always made time to speak to any dermatologist who approached him. I had that privilege during my first year as ILDS President in Washington at the 2016 AAD meeting when he graciously shared his many insights about the history and evolution of dermatology on the international stage.
Professor Robin Marks, who succeeded Dr. Katz as ILDS President in 2002 has written of his interactions with Steve. “I first met Steve when he was guest speaker of the Australasian College of Dermatologists in 1978. We spent a day together in Melbourne, and as a young dermatologist I was given the opportunity of taking him around for a day before the meeting began. He was tremendously enthusiastic about everything varying from basic scientific research, through jazz to a special form of pottery. We met again when, as Secretary-General of the 18th World Congress of Dermatology, he invited me to present a paper in New York in 1992. It was an outstanding Congress, in no small way due to his knowledge of and contact with so many of the world’s leading dermatologists. At the 19th World Congress of Dermatology in Sydney in 1997, Steve was elected ILDS President and he invited me to be the Treasurer. I always found Steve to be willing to give advice and good counsel whenever I needed it (and there were plenty of times when I did!). He was remarkably unfussable, even when we were presented with what seemed like insurmountable problems.”
Dr Katz has received the highest awards that are bestowed by the many organisations that he’s been associated with, and this has also been the case for the ILDS when he received our Medal for Achievements in Global Dermatology during the 23rd World Congress of Dermatology in Vancouver in 2015. Steve’s myriad contributions have touched the lives of countless people—patients, researchers, and caregivers—in many ways, and the world of dermatology is indeed grateful to have had his leadership.
Tributes to Dr Katz from the US National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Dermatology: