Dr. Samuel L. Katz died last week at the age of 95. He was a world-renowned pediatrician and virologist. He joined the Duke University School of Medicine faculty as chair of pediatrics in 1968 and led the department until 1990.
Katz began his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College in 1944. In 1945, he joined the Navy and was sent to San Diego to attend hospital training school. Afterwards, he returned to Dartmouth and completed the undergraduate premed requirements, graduating in 1948. He then attended Dartmouth Medical School, which, at the time, was a two-year preclinical program and received a BMS in 1950. Katz completed his MD at Harvard Medical School in 1952. He had internships at Beth Israel Hospital followed by a residency in pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital. Katz also completed a research fellowship in virology and infectious diseases at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Katz's early medical experiences with polio, brought him into contact with John Enders, a noted virologist awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1954 for his work on culturing the poliovirus. While a staff member at Boston Children's Hospital, Katz worked with Enders' for twelve years to develop the attenuated measles virus vaccine. The work was published in 1962, and the vaccine was licensed in 1963. By 1968 the incidence of measles in the United States had dropped to less than 10 percent. Throughout his career, Katz traveled to Central America, South America, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan nations to advocate for the use of the measles and other vaccines to protect all infants and children.
In addition to his work on measles, Katz was involved in studies of many other pathogens and infectious diseases, including vaccinia, polio, rubella, influenza, pertussis, HIV, and Haemophilus influenzae b conjugates, including clinical studies of HIV-infected infants and children and clinical evaluation of viral vaccines. Katz chaired the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics (the Redbook Committee), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control, the Vaccine Priorities Study of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and several World Health Organization (WHO) and CVI vaccine and HIV panels. He was a member of many scientific advisory committees and boards, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the IOM, and the WHO. He was Chairman of the Public Policy Council of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and co-chaired IDSA's Vaccine Initiative.
Katz received numerous awards including Distinguished Teacher Award, Duke Medical School Alumni (1987); Presidential Medal, Dartmouth College (1991); Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Georgetown University (1996) and Dartmouth College (1998); Sabin Gold Medal (2003), and the Maimonides Award (2007).
In 2007, he was interviewed by Jessica Roseberry as part of the Women in Duke Medicine oral history project. Towards the end of the interview, he was asked what made a good pediatrician. He shared:
“What makes a good pediatrician? Somebody who’s intellectually keen, somebody who's interested in children and appreciates that children are the future of our world, someone who's sensitive and is able to deal with the anxieties and problems of parents, even before they're dealing with the anxieties and problems of children. I think those are the qualities I would want: intellectually keen, emotionally balanced, sensitive to the needs of others, and foresighted enough to realize that dealing with infants and children, this is what we have to look forward to as the world in which our children and grandchildren are going to live.”
You can listen to the interview in full here and read the transcript in full here.
To learn more about Dr. Katz, read the articles published this week by the Duke Department of Pediatrics, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. You can also find the finding aid for the Samuel L. Katz Papers and Records published here.