October 2015 | Deireadh Fómhair 2015

Honorary Degree Conferred on Distinguished Dermatologist

Fri, 2 October 15 15:00

The University conferred a degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa on distinguished dermatology specialist, Dr Sephen Ira Katz at a special conferring ceremony at O'Reilly Hall, Belfield on Friday 2nd October 2015.  The degree was conferred on Dr Katz by UCD President Professor Andrew J Deeks. The conferring took place on the occasion of the first major international dermatology conference hosted by UCD Charles Institute entitled 'Future in Dermatology'.  Dr Katz has been a strong supporter of the UCD Charles Institute since its inception and has offered expert guidance to the University in an advisory capacity over many years.  A citation commending Dr Katz was read by Professor Frank Powell, Chair of UCD Charles Institute and UCD Professor of Dermatology.

Citation Address

President, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Stephen Katz MD, PhD is one of the most distinguished Dermatologists of our time. He has had many awards including Doctor Honoris Causa Degrees from the University of Budapest, the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and the University of Athens for his lifetime achievements in Science and Medicine.

For his achievements in Public Health and Medicine Dr. Katz has received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan and the Presidential Executive Meritorious Rank Award from President Clinton. Dr Katz has published more than 300 papers in scientific journals. He has delivered multiple named lectures to distinguished scientific societies. He is an honorary member of many academic bodies.

Steve grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a Jewish family of Eastern European extraction. During his time at High School he neglected his academic work and enjoyed his social life. Apparently he was an excellent dancer! He learned to play the guitar and later formed his own Rock Band playing the music of the 1950s and 1960s.However, Rock music’s loss was to be academias gain!

In College he studied Liberal Arts and Physics and majored in American and European History. He began to enjoy studying.

He decided to study Medicine and attended Tulane Medical School in New Orleans. During Medical School he spent what he described as “a life-changing sabbatical” in Uganda East Africa. There he investigated the effects of urbanization on marginal nutrition in the local population. This was his first experience of research and how it could make a difference to real people outside the laboratory.

He was attracted to Dermatology because he could do medicine, some pathology and some surgery and become an expert in a specialty that was just beginning to have a scientific base. He trained under Harvey Blank in Miami while his wife Linda pursued her PhD in Spanish Literature there at the University of Miami.

After residency he spent 2 years at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center involved in teaching, research and organizing clinics together with his assistant Mark Dahl who himself was to become a distinguished dermatologist and President of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Steve decided to pursue his interest in research. He was awarded a Fellowship in Immunology at the Institute of Basic Sciences at the Royal College of Surgeons affiliated to the University of London. There he completed his PhD. Research carried out during that time lead to papers in the journal Nature amongst many others.

He greatly enjoyed his time in London with his wife and two young sons Mark and Ken. His daughter Karen was born there during this time and he made many lifelong friendships.

On his return to the US he was recruited to the NIH as an Investigator. In 1981 he became Branch Chief, a position he held for 24 years. In 1995 he became the Director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a position he has held since.

During his time at the NIH he has trained many Fellows who became leaders in the Dermatology world (including 11 Professors and Chairs of Dermatology in Japan) and many of the most influential Chairs of Dermatology in the US and Europe.

I once asked Steve what motivated him to such a successful career. His answer was that Sibling Rivalry had a lot to do with it. According to Steve his older brother Robert was a much higher achiever in school than he was. Robert went into dermatology before Steve even considered studying medicine! When he decided to do dermatology he wanted to do it well, at least as well as his brother who became his role model and inspiration. He and his brother have remained extremely close throughout their lives.

Some people who attain the heights of public and academic success become distant and absorbed in the rarefied atmosphere of their upper circle. Steve always remained kind and courteous to those who were at a less distinguished level than he. He retained his balance in life between work achievements and personal relationships.

Finally, what is Steve’s connection to Dublin and to UCD?

Steve is interested in worldwide developments in Dermatology. It was by taking advantage of this side of his good nature that he agreed to become involved in the planning of a new Institute of Dermatology Research here in Ireland, the UCD Charles Institute of Dermatology.

He came to Ireland and together with Jim Kruger, Jean Hilaire Saurat, Rod Hay and subsequently with Erwin Tschachler and others helped to guide UCD through the steps necessary to put the various elements of this Institute in place in a country where there had been no real tradition of research in Dermatology. By associating himself and his international reputation with this project Steve gave it great credibility throughout the world of Dermatology. He encouraged others to come to Dublin to visit the Institute and finally to interview for the position of Director, the position now held by Professor Martin Steinhoff.

Praehonorabilis Praeses, totaque Universitas,

Praesento vobis hunc meum filium, quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad Gradum Doctoratus Scientiae; idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo, totique Academiae.