Dr. Steven C. Katz is Chairman of the Immuno-Oncology Institute (1X2) at Roger Williams Medical Center, and surgical oncologist on the American Board of Surgery examination committee. At first, last spring, some patients were afraid to come in, which in some cases led to delays in care. Increasingly, patients and family members are gaining comfort with seeking care and treatment in the current environment. Steven and the entire team at the hospital were very careful about keeping patients and staff members safe, following the guidelines of the Health Department and CDC.
Steven and his research team helped with evaluation of a drug typically used as part of cancer immunotherapy, for patients with severe COVID related illness. They reported that the drug, when administered to severely ill COVID patients, lowered the mortality rate substantially from the typical experience at that time. This study has been published in the journal, “Cytokine”. Currently, the team is continuing its exciting cancer research. Their work is focusing on developing new therapies for pancreas and liver cancers. While COVID has made this work challenging at times, the very dedicated team struck a balance between off-site work and enhanced precautions in the lab to ensure continued progress.
Steven finds it remarkable that we have very effective vaccines, with several in the pipeline, in under a year. He finds it very encouraging that everyone worked together-scientists, physicians and industry-to allow this to happen. It usually takes over 8 to 10 years to develop a vaccine. Steven wrote an editorial in “Cancer Gene Therapy” entitled, “Silver Linings at the Bench and Bedside” to highlight the incredible value of close collaboration during the COVID crisis, and how society benefits when we find common ground with common cause.
Knowing that he’s helping people and saving lives keeps Steven going. As a surgeon, being in the operating room has always come with risk, and the COVID related concerns have not deterred the surgical workforce from carrying out its mission in a safe manner.
The hardest part of this past year has been the loss of contact with colleagues, friends and family. There have been no face-to-face scientific meetings, so no meaningful live collaboration with peers. All meetings have been via Zoom, which limits interaction and brings with it a host of its own challenges. Despite this, everyone has found creative ways to bridge the social and professional gaps.
To stay grounded, he greatly enjoys spending time with his children aged 7 and 10. They play tennis, ride their bikes, read together, play board games, or enjoy a movie by the fireplace. Steven is an avid reader, and a physical fitness enthusiast. Steven is grateful to have been blessed with wonderful family, great friends and a profession that he finds very meaningful.