Fred Stuart Kantor, MD, Paul B. Beeson Emeritus Professor of Medicine (Immunology), whose dedication to training young physicians continued 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 in New York on July 2, 1931. His father was a dentist and his mother a lawyer. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School, then earned his BS at Union College in Schenectady, New York. In 1952, he enrolled in New York University (NYU) Medical School, where he earned his MD and received the Founder’s Day Scholastic Award. From 1956 to 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 Diseases. infections, where he made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms by which streptococcal infections lead to rheumatic fever. In 1959 he came to Yale School of Medicine, where he completed his residency in internal medicine under Professor Paul Beeson.
In 1960 Kantor became a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow under Beeson, and from 1961 to 1962 he completed a fellowship in immunology at NYU under future Nobel Prize-winning scientist Baruj Benacerraf. In Benacerraf’s lab, Kantor made sentinel findings of responses to synthetic antigens that led to the realization that the nature of transplant tissue type on antigen-presenting cells was crucial for the function of immune response genes. . This work earned Kantor an early international reputation.
In 1963 Kantor returned to Yale as an assistant professor of medicine, attaining the rank of professor in 1973. In 1982 he was awarded the Paul B. Beeson Professorship in Medicine. He has been a 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 be long remembered as one of Yale School of Medicine’s finest educators. His message to his trainees was informed by his analytical training as a scientist and his Oslerian “questioning gaze” stance toward the problem at hand. His passion for medicine, its content and its traditions enthused his dedicated trainees and served to introduce them to the profession he loved and cherished. He was a staunch participant and mentor in the Department of Internal Medicine’s daily morning report until the days before his death – a treasured voice and historic presence that bound his audience to the tradition of excellence that characterized his life in medicine. One of the major internal medicine residency awards, the Yale New Haven Hospital Teacher of the Year Award, is named in his honor.
Kantor embodied the vaunted “triple threat” of American academic medicine and its mission to create new knowledge, train the next generations of physicians, and provide excellent health care. He was a caring and brilliant diagnostician, deeply invested in the healing of his patients. Above all, he excelled as an inspiring and inspirational teacher, modeling the art and craft of medicine for several generations of trainees.
Fundamental to shaping the culture of Yale School of Medicine, his credo for the school was “Good as all, kinder than most”. A man of many pearls of wisdom, former interns of Dr. Kantor often recite Kantor’s rule: “If a patient is sick, you act, and if the patient gets worse, you probably did.”
He has won many honors and accolades during his career. From 1962 to 1972, he received a Career Development Award from the US Public Health Service. From 1981 to 1984, he was secretary/treasurer of the prestigious Interurban Clinical Club, of which he was president from 1985 to 1986. In 2002, he received the Solomon A. Berson Medical Alumni Achievement Award in Clinical Science from NYU. 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 Board of the American Heart Association and was elected to 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 has 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 countless committees, including the intern selection committee for 46 years.
Kantor led a clinical immunology research lab, which focused on making important new observations in a variety of diseases related to T- and B-cell immune responses, including primary biliary cirrhosis, myasthenia gravis, and Lyme disease. Working with a Yale team including Richard Flavell, PhD, Erol Fikrig, MD, and Stephen W. Barthold, DVM, PhD, he developed Lymerix, a Lyme disease vaccine that received Food and Drug approval. Administration in 1998 and was distributed by SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals.
His long marriage to his wife Linda, who survives him, was a loving partnership of shared accomplishments that fueled both of their lives. Kantor’s greatest source of pride and joy was the family they had created. Along with his wife, he is survived by his children Michael (Kathy Landau), Karen and Ted (Susan), and seven grandchildren, Emma, Twyla, Rebecca, Alice, Max, Sam and Isabelle. He was predeceased by his grandson Sacha.