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Stephen Katz receiving an award from NPF.
Advance Online

Mourning the Passing of Stephen Katz, M.D., Ph.D.

Longtime NIAMS director was a friend to all he served.

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 provide 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: NPF Chief Operating Officer Leah McCormick Howard with Stephen Katz. Above: Katz at the 2015 NPF Research Symposium.

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.

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