Jeffrey A. Kant, MD, PhD
Jeffrey A. Kant, MD, PhD, 65, vice chair of the CAP Council on Scientific Affairs, died of cancer on Sept. 29. He was a 2012 recipient of the CAP Lifetime Achievement Award and, at the time of his death, a member of the Economic Affairs and Personalized Health Care committees and the laboratory-developed test and next-gen sequencing working groups.
Dr. Kant was a professor of pathology and human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he directed the Division of Molecular Diagnostics, the molecular genetic pathology fellowship program, and the clinical molecular genetics program within the overall genetics fellowship program.
He was a founder and the first elected president of the Association for Molecular Pathology and the first recipient of the AMP Leadership Award.
Iris Schrijver, MD, immediate past president of the AMP, first worked with Dr. Kant when he chaired the CAP/ACMG Biochemical and Molecular Genetics Resource Committee (2005–2008). “He operated out of a tremendously deep fund of knowledge of the big picture of major issues facing pathologists in this country,” she says, “and he was willing to share everything he knew so others would also be informed and motivated to be involved.” Dr. Schrijver, of Stanford University Medical Center, describes his dedication to molecular pathology as “unwavering,” and says: “He pushed the field forward. Without him, we would not be where we are today.”
In 2003, Dr. Kant was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for “distinguished leadership in the development of molecular diagnostics as a clinical discipline within the field of pathology.”
After residency and then a fellowship in the NCI’s Laboratory of Pathology, Dr. Kant joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, where, during his 12 years there, he founded in the mid-’80s one of the first clinical molecular diagnostic laboratories in a pathology department. In 1996 he joined the Department of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. During the years that he directed the pathology residency training program (1998–2003), his residents named him “the residency director with the open door, open appointment book, and open mind.”
For his fellows he was a pivotal mentor. “The most important thing to understand about Dr. Kant is his generosity,” says former fellow Federico A. Monzon, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine. “He was a visionary. And as a mentor, he would not compromise in getting you training experiences that he believed were going to make you a better molecular pathologist.”
“He was passionate about laboratory medicine and molecular diagnostics and genetics and he was also passionate about education of trainees,” says Karen Weck, MD, who was assistant professor of pathology and assistant director of molecular diagnostics at UPMC from 1999 to 2004 and is now at the University of North Carolina. “He sincerely cared about every person he met; he respected and encouraged each person’s unique talents.” Without him, she adds, “this field would not exist in its present form.”
Margaret Gulley, MD, also of UNC and a former chair of the CAP Molecular Pathology Committee who worked with Dr. Kant in the formative years of the AMP, says he was one of only a few who understood the finances of molecular pathology and reimbursement strategies. “He worked really hard with the CAP to develop reimbursement codes that made sense, then advocate for fair reimbursement for what we do.”
In his note of thanks for the Lifetime Achievement Award, given for contributions to the CAP over an extended period, Dr. Kant wrote: “There are three speed-dial buttons on my office phone. The first two are to my wife at home and work. The third is to the CAP; I use it a lot.”
As an AMP program committee chair, Dr. Kant started the meeting’s social event, taking creative responsibility for musical numbers such as “It’s fun to be at the AMP” by the AMP Pillage People (similar to “It’s fun to be at the YMCA” by the Village People) and “Do the Transformation” (performed to the tune of “Do the Locomotion”). The lifelong Boston Red Sox fan asked that his memorial service conclude with a group chorus of “Take me out to the ballgame,” and it did.
Dr. Kant is survived by his wife, Julie; two sons, four grandchildren, and three brothers.