Fred Stuart Kantor, MD, Paul B. Beeson Professor Emeritus of Medicine (Immunology), whose dedication to educating young doctors lasted until his death, died May 28 at Yale New Haven Hospital, where he had served faithfully for 56 years. He was 90 years old.
Kantor was born on July 2, 1931 in New York City. His father was a dentist and his mother a lawyer. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and then received his BS from Union College in Schenectady, NY. In 1952, he enrolled at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, where he received his MD and received the Founder’s Day Scholastic Award. From 1956-1957, he trained as an intern at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Mo., followed by a two-year stint as a research associate at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where he made a fundamental contribution to understanding of the mechanisms by which streptococcal infections lead to rheumatic fever. In 1959, he entered the Yale School of Medicine, where he completed his residency in internal medicine with Professor Paul Beeson.
In 1960, Kantor became a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow under Beeson, and from 1961-1962 he completed a fellowship in immunology at NYU under future Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Baruj Benacerraf. In Benacerraf’s lab, Kantor made sentinel discoveries of responses to synthetic antigens that led to the realization that the nature of the type of graft tissue on antigen-presenting cells was crucial for the function of immune response genes. This work gave Kantor an early international reputation.
In 1963, Kantor returned to Yale as an assistant professor of medicine, where he rose to the rank of professor in 1973. In 1982 he was awarded the Paul B. Beeson Professorship in Medicine. He has been visiting scholar and visiting professor at several international institutions, including the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia; the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel; the Department of Zoology at University College, London; Pahlavi University, Shiraz, Iran; Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem; as well as Harvard and Stanford Universities.
He will long be remembered as one of the foremost educators of the Yale School of Medicine. His message to his trainees was informed by his analytical training as a scientist and his Oslerian attitude of “questioning attention” to the problem at hand. His passion for medicine, its contents and its traditions aroused his devoted trainees and served to initiate them into the profession he loved and cherished. He was a faithful participant and mentor on the Department of Internal Medicine’s daily morning report until the days before his death – a valuable voice and historic presence that connected his audience with the tradition of excellence that characterized his life in medicine. One of Internal Medicine Residency’s major awards, the Yale New Haven Hospital Teacher-of-the-Year Award, is named after him.
Kantor epitomized the vaunted “triple threat” of American academic medicine and its mission to create new knowledge, educate the next generations of physicians, and deliver outstanding healthcare. He was a caring and brilliant diagnostician, deeply invested in taking care of his patients’ healing. Above all, he excelled as an inspiring and inspired teacher, modeling the art and craft of medicine for several generations of trainees.
Fundamental in shaping the culture of the Yale School of Medicine, his credo for the school was “Good as everyone, kinder than most.” A man of many pearls of wisdom, Dr. Kantor often recite Kantor’s line, “If a patient is sick, take action, and if the patient gets worse, it’s probably what you did.”
He won numerous awards and accolades during his career. From 1962-1972 he held a Career Development Award from the US Public Health Service. From 1981-1984 he was secretary/treasurer of the prestigious Interurban Clinical Club, of which he was president from 1985-1986. In 2002, he received the NYU’s Solomon A. Berson Medical Alumni Achievement Award in Clinical Science. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and of the American Board of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He served on the Council of the American Heart Association and was elected a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
He has served on numerous editorial boards, including: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,The Journal of Immunologyand the Annals of Internal Medicine† He served on the NIH Immunobiology Study Section and as a member and chair of the NIH Allergy and Clinical Immunology Research Committee. At Yale, he served on numerous committees for 46 years, including the Internal Selection Committee.
Kantor led a clinical immunology research lab focused on making important new observations in a variety of diseases related to T-cell and B-cell immune responses, including primary biliary cirrhosis, myasthenia gravis and Lyme disease. Working with a team at Yale, including Richard Flavell, PhD, Erol Fikrig, MD, and Stephen W. Barthold, DVM, PhD, he developed Lymerix, a vaccine for Lyme disease that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998. and was distributed by SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals.
His long marriage to his surviving wife Linda was a loving partnership of shared achievements that fueled both their lives. Kantor’s greatest source of pride and joy was the family they created. Along with his wife, he leaves behind his children Michael (Kathy Landau), Karen and Ted (Susan) and seven grandchildren, Emma, Twyla, Rebecca, Alice, Max, Sam and Isabelle. He was preceded in death by his grandson Sacha.