Donald Kaye, Infectious Disease News Editorial Board Member and mentor to many, dies at 88
Donald Kaye, MD, MACP, an influential infectious diseases clinician and researcher and longtime Infectious Disease News Editorial Board Member, died July 4 at the age of 88, his family announced.
Kaye authored the informative and widely read “Eye on ID” column for Infectious Disease News since 2013 and had been a professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine, an associate editor for ProMED-mail and news section editor for Clinical Infectious Diseases.
“We are so saddened to hear that our colleague Donald Kaye is no longer with us. His leadership in infectious diseases is legendary and he — and his sons! — have contributed much to the success of Infectious Disease News and to all the patients of our readers, who have benefited from Donald's deep expertise,” said Infectious Disease News Chief Medical Editor Paul A. Volberding, MD. “We wish his family the best in this hard and sad time.”
Kaye was born on Aug. 12, 1931, in New York City and graduated from Yale in 1953. He earned his MD from New York University in 1957 and completed his training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Cornell University and New York Hospital in 1961. While a faculty member at Cornell, he trained and influenced future luminaries in infectious diseases, including Gerald Mandell, Merle Sande and Anthony Fauci, according to his obituary.
“He meant the world to me in so many ways and was a mentor for decades, even up until the final few months of his storied life,” said Larry M. Bush, MD, FACP, who co-authored numerous “Eye on ID” articles with Kaye. “The number of notable infectious diseases physicians he educated and influenced in one way or another is countless, and through us he has touched so many other training physicians and patients unknown to him.”
“Eye on ID” was wide-ranging in its scope. Recent editions focused on typhoid fever, tularemia, botulism, polio, eastern equine encephalitis, antibiotic prescribing dogma and babesiosis. A 2014 “Eye on ID” that Kaye co-authored with Marjorie P. Pollack, MD, compared the coronaviruses that cause MERS and SARS. It drew renewed attention online recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming one of the most read stories on Healio.com.
Kaye remained active, editing and publishing right up until the end of his life, his family said. He was the sole author of the most recent “Eye on ID,” writing about the life cycle of Trichinella spiralis and the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of trichinellosis. The article will be published later this month.
“Over the years, Dr. Kaye pushed me to become a better medical news editor. I continually learned new things from him — above all, he taught me how important a cognitive specialty like infectious diseases is to the betterment of public health,” said John C. Schoen, MA, Healio Editorial Director and former executive editor of Infectious Disease News. “He was exceptionally knowledgeable and insightful, and his impact on Healio and Infectious Disease News cannot be overstated.”
In 1969, Kaye became chairman of the department of medicine at the Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP), subsequently Hahnemann, at age 38 years — a position that he maintained until 1995. During his time at MCP, he transformed the department into a nationally recognized research and clinical institution. He was an internationally recognized clinician, educator and researcher, with particular expertise in UTIs and endocarditis, writing books on these topics.
Kaye published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles in medical journals and authored more than 100 book chapters. He received many federally funded grants and numerous awards, was elected to leadership positions in professional societies and was named Master of the American College of Physicians. He served on editorial boards for many professional journals and was a mentor to hundreds of physicians, in whom he instilled the values of integrity, loyalty and compassion, his family said.
Kaye married the love of his life, Janet Kaye (nee Sovitsky) in 1954, and had four children, all of whom are physicians. He was a grandfather to nine grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family said contributions in his memory may be made to Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania (www.mlrt.org).
A MESSAGE FROM KEITH S. KAYE, MD, MPH:
My dad had a huge influence on my career and choice of career in infectious diseases. For me, it was really almost subconscious — I really tried to consider other specialties, but I always came back to infectious diseases due to my love of the cognitive challenges and the detective work that clinical cases often presented, trying to identify sources of fever, types of infection or alternative diagnoses. I don't know if it was from environment or genetics or a combination of both, but he instilled in me the curiosity and passion for infectious diseases. He set an incredible standard and example for me to follow with regards to not only being a top-notch clinician, mentor, researcher and educator, but also in terms of how to treat other people — patients, families of patients, colleagues, mentees and other health care workers. He always treated everyone with the utmost respect. He would not leave the office until he returned every phone call he had received that day. He had a unique set of values and high standards — not only for himself but also for others. He set those standards for others as a role model, trying to make them better clinicians, investigators and people.
My Dad was a mentor to literally hundreds of physicians. I was really blessed to have him as my prime mentor professionally. He was not only my father, but also a world-renowned infectious diseases physician and master clinician with a longtime administrative role and a highly successful research career. Having him as a father and a professional mentor almost felt unfair to peers in my generation, but I never hesitated to take full advantage of his wisdom and guidance. I also learned from him how important it is to give back and support trainees and junior faculty, and as a result I consider mentoring one of my most important activities.
I also learned from my dad the value and importance of family — the one thing more important than his work was family. He instilled in his children and grandchildren the importance of honesty, strong work ethic, generosity and family values. Whether at home or in the workplace, they truly don’t make them like Donald Kaye anymore.
A MESSAGE FROM KENNETH M. KAYE, MD:
My dad loved infectious diseases and medicine in general. He experienced true joy and excitement in what he did. His areas of expertise were endocarditis and UTIs, but he also had a special affinity for parasitology. He would have an almost a childlike joy deciphering challenging clinical cases. He always had work in front of him. It didn't matter if he was down at the beach on vacation or if I were driving the car, he always had a pile of manuscripts and journals in his hand.
Growing up, infectious diseases was a family affair. For example, when I was an infant, I contracted Salmonella, and they tracked it down to a parakeet we had in the house. They wrote it up — they wrote me up — in The New England Journal of Medicine. When I was 4 years old, when my dad was at Cornell and New York Hospital, we spent a year in Brazil, and he helped them set up an exchange program. When we moved to Philadelphia, he continued that exchange program at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and that went on for many years. Also, as a young child, we all knew about Naegleria, and how to avoid it when we went swimming in the lake each summer. My dad imbued his love of medicine in his four children. My brother-in-law, who is also in infectious diseases, my brother, father and I co-taught an annual CME infectious diseases course every December, which spanned several decades. Though my father loved his work, family always came first, despite his busy schedule. He would come to all our school events, whether it was music concerts or sporting events. And of course, the sporting events were in the middle of the afternoon, which I’m sure were difficult for him to get to.
He also was a clinical master. In weekly Professor’s Rounds, his residents would try to stump him with difficult cases. No matter what patient they would muster up, he would make the diagnosis. Someone told me that he had once made a very difficult diagnosis of vasculitis in a patient by looking at their eye grounds. He taught his grandson — my son, who is just starting his medical internship — the proper way to check blood pressure. He had tremendous respect for the physical exam, and he lamented its diminishing role in medicine.
Another theme with my dad was mentoring. He was very old-school and felt that mentoring was really important, and he heavily invested himself in it. He prided himself in finding and even creating opportunities for residents, fellows and colleagues that could be pivotal for their careers. His mentoring extended to his family and friends, who could count on him for his sage advice.
With a true love of infectious diseases and medicine, he remained actively engaged, right up until the end of his life. Some of his writing for Infectious Disease News is still in press. He was also the news editor for Clinical Infectious Diseases, and a number of his columns for that publication are still in press as well. My dad was also an editor and moderator at ProMED, where Marjorie Pollack, he and others were involved in the first report of COVID-19, last December. My father appreciated his life, which was full of family and a rewarding career. In his final days, he expressed that he had no regrets, and no bucket list. That being said, he will be greatly missed.