During the joy of the holiday season, the NPF family was saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of Stephen Katz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. The NPF staff and board joins with NIAMS staff and the broader scientific community in our devastation over this loss. Katz was a passionate leader, distinguished scientist, caring dermatologist, and above all a remarkable man.
Under Katz’s decades-long leadership, NIAMS made significant advances in the fields of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis research. As Katz shared during his 2015 keynote speech at NPF’s Research Symposium, NIH support for investigator-initiated grants and larger targeted research initiatives, such as the Genetic Association Information Network and Genome-Wide Association Studies, have led to scientific discoveries that have advanced our understanding of psoriatic disease and led to new treatment options for our community.
Yet while the research community mourns the passing of the scientist, what we at NPF and volunteers who knew him will miss the most is his friendship. Katz genuinely cared about everyone he met.
I’ll give you one example. For many years, NPF has met annually with Katz and leaders of each of the more than half-dozen NIH Institutes that fund psoriatic disease research. Each year, NPF staff would plan this meeting to cover exciting developments in the field, new NPF initiatives, and time for NIH experts to share about their programs and activities.
NPF’s invitation list included leading researchers in the field and NPF staff, along with patients and young medical students. What was always remarkable was that Katz included everyone in the conversation. He made sure that each attendee – regardless of their title or stature in the field – had an opportunity to contribute. He gave added time to the patients to share their stories, because, after all, it was for them and all those they represented that we were gathered.
While this might seem surprising to some, given that he was the director, if you knew him, you knew that this was not remarkable at all. That’s just how he lived his life.
Top photo: Leah McCormick Howard with Stephen Katz. Above: Katz at the NPF Research Symposium in 2015.
I had the privilege of attending his funeral service on Dec. 23, and what struck me over the more than two hours that his family, friends, and colleagues eulogized him were the similarities in each story. Each speaker detailed his brilliance, kindness and generosity of spirit.
It’s not just NPF that lost a friend. Everyone did.
There is much exciting scientific discovery on the horizon in the psoriatic disease field. Our community can thank Katz for leading us to this point. Whether through NIH initiatives or investment, or just cheering on NPF as we launched new programs like the NPF bridge grants that fund near-miss proposals to institutions like the NIH, his impact will be felt far and wide for many years to come.
I will miss you, Dr. Katz. My colleagues will, too.
Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.