On October 18th the Society for Pediatric Pathology lost one of its finest members, Dr. Stephen A. Heifetz, to lung cancer. The speed at which it advanced was tremendous. He likened it to a "juggernaut," having only been diagnosed on September 26th. There was too little time for him to contact all the people that he would have liked to contact, and the extensive pulmonary lymphatic spread made talking on the phone very difficult. He did appreciate all the cards and well wishes that he received. Although a very stressful task, I was happy he asked me to make phone calls for him and to inform him of the replies and read the messages received. It was very moving to know that he made a true impact on the lives of so many. Nothing could be a greater legacy. His life was full, and he was brillant to the end.
Steve's life journey began in Brooklyn, New York where his boundless energy, endless curiosity and thirst for knowledge was revealed. His mother and father taught him the importance of education, tradition, patience and humility. He graduated from Bronx High School of Science at age 16 and entered Swarthmore College where he graduated from in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology. During this time in college his interests broadened to include history, literature and the theater arts. Although he had thoughts of pursuing an acting career, medicine seemed the logical choice and he graduated from State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center in 1971. During medical school he married Phebe Wheeler, and together they were blessed with Jennifer Ruth in 1970 and Joshua Barnett in 1972. With a known interest in pediatric pathology, Steven did an internship in pediatrics, a short residency in obstetrics and gynecology and then completed a residency in anatomical and clinical pathology. This combination of training gave him an ideal background for a distinguished career in pediatric pathology.
After completing his residency in 1977 he was appointed chief, Department of Pathology at U.S. Army Hospitals in Nuremberg, Germany. His next assignment was Chairman of the Department of Pediatric Pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. While in Maryland he met Issac Bateman, his life partner for 18 years. Together with son Joshua, they moved to Nova Scotia where Steve was Associate Director of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Grace Maternity Hospital and the Isaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children in Halifax from 1985 to 1988. In October of 1988, Steve became the Director of Pediatric Pathology at J. W. Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis where he supervised renovation of the pediatric surgical pathology laboratory that by his guidance contains an extraordinary pediatric pathology library which will be names after him.
Throughout his professional career he dedicated many hours to hospital, regional and national committees. He was nationally known for his expertise in placental pathology and childhood germ cell tumors. He was a founding member of the Mid-America Placental Study Group and held many committee seats in the Children's Cancer Study Group, in additional to being the pathology reviewer for germ cell tumors. Locally he was involved with the Indianapolis Campaign for Healthy Babies, Marion County Fetal and Infant Mortiality Review, Indiana State SIDS Task Force and Marion County SIDS Parental Support Group. His ability to communicate both by the written and the spoken word was one of his greatest talents, which is shown by his numerous papers, presentations and membership on editorial boards and journal review panels. He gave so much of himself in each task that he undertook. His methodical and thorough approach yielded quality and his creativity and appreciation for the dramatic added flair to his product. He had a passion for life and lived it with such vigor that his energy became contagious not only in his professional like, in the teaching of residents, but also in his personal life. His love for family, art, music, theater and acting, stamps, photography and gardening were pursued in the same single mindedness for uncompromised quality. Last winter, he garnered rave reviews for his role of the Jewish father in a local play, "The Destiny of Me." Although very giving of his talents, he was a very private person and let very few people into his wonderfully brilliant soul. To those who loved him, he will be forever missed, but having had their lives touched by his spirit he will live on.
Steve wanted a Children's Cancer Research Fund set up in his name at J.W. Riley Hospital for Children. Contribution's can be made through The Riley Memorial Association, Riley Hospital for Children, 702 Barnhill Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46202, (317) 634-4474.
We hope to have a plaque dedicated to him in the new Cancer Research Building, for his future grandchildren to visit. In addition, we are dedicating the Division of Pediatric Pathology's library to him and placing his name upon a brick on the "Riley Wall, " which honors individuals and groups that have helped make Riley Hospital fulfill its mission to help Indiana's children and families in their time of suffering.
- Mary M. Davis, MD
If you wish to add a few words, an anecdote, or a comment to this memorial page,
please email to Robert Ruiz.