Samuel L. Katz, M.D., FAAP, of Chapel Hill, N.C., who co-developed the measles vaccine, died Oct. 31 at age 95.
A world-renowned virologist and pediatrician, Dr. Katz was a giant in the field of immunizations. He served as chair emeritus and Wilbert C. Davison Professor Emeritus at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina.
Dr. Katz was born May 29, 1927, in Manchester, N.H. He earned degrees from Dartmouth College and a medical degree from Harvard University. He served a medical internship at Beth Israel Hospital and completed pediatrics residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.
It was in Boston that Dr. Katz teamed with John Enders, Ph.D., who recently had won the Nobel Prize for his work with polio. Dr. Katz spent the next 12 years researching viruses, specifically measles, and the two developed an attenuated measles virus vaccine.
In 1960, Dr. Katz partnered with David Morley, M.D., a British physician working in Nigeria, to inoculate Nigerian children with the new vaccine. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1963 and now is used throughout the world.
Dr. Katz worked on many other vaccines, including vaccinia (used as smallpox vaccine), polio, rubella, influenza, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugates and HIV.
“Immunization is the single intervention that has most dramatically reduced childhood morbidity and mortality,” Dr. Katz said during testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform in August 1999. “In our lifetime, it has led to longer, healthier and happier lives.”
A member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases for 12 years, Dr. Katz served as the committee’s chair from 1969-’76. He also served on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Vaccine Priorities Study of the Institute of Medicine and several World Health Organization vaccine and HIV panels.
“Dr. Katz was an absolute giant in our field and touched the lives of countless children,” said AAP Red Book Editor David W. Kimberlin, M.D., FAAP. “His work with measles was foundational to the dramatic decline worldwide in that deadly disease. He lived a full life and will be dearly missed.”
Dr. Katz was appointed chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine in 1968, a role he held for 22 years.
“Dr. Katz has been a stellar role model for all of us, as a clinician, as a teacher, as an investigator and as an advocate for children,” said Ann M. Reed, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics and the Samuel L. Katz, MD, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Duke. “He set a high bar, advancing medicine in ways that have improved children's health around the world — he is truly one of the outstanding pediatric investigators of our times.”
Dr. Katz was a past president of the American Pediatric Society and the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs.
“I commented to a colleague just two weeks ago at our IDWeek meeting that it was just not the same because Sam Katz wasn’t there to make one of his keen observations or to just be a kid in a candy shop taking in the latest discoveries in our field,” said ACIP member Sarah S. Long, M.D., FAAP, professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine.
“As if ‘Dr. Measles’ wouldn’t be enough of an accolade for anyone, Sam Katz was so much more,” Dr. Long said. “He was a major driving force for vaccine development and for policy that led to reductions exceeding 95% in burdens of so many childhood diseases that parents suddenly could expect that their children would survive into adulthood. He also was simply a lovely man, with empathy as if having walked in everyone’s shoes. He valued and gave credit to his colleagues and showered us youngins with praise and encouragement that we hardly deserved.”
He received numerous awards, including the AAP Clifford G. Grulee Award (1975), the AAP/American Medical Association Abraham Jacobi Award (1986), the inaugural Federation of Pediatric Organizations Joseph W. St. Geme Award (1988), the American Pediatric Society John Howland Award (2000), the Albert Sabin Vaccine Institute Gold Medal (2003) and the Alfred I. duPont Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Care (2006). In addition, he served as editor of the 1974 AAP Red Book, and the 2012 Red Book was dedicated to him.
Read his AAP oral history at https://bit.ly/3NyfhWc.