Mal was our great story telling friend.
We will miss, honor and think about him in the garden.
Mal was one of the most personable faculty members, I have had the pleasure of meeting. I will always remember he had a great laugh. The kind that made everyone smile, even if you didn't know what he was joking about. RIP Mal, you will be missed.
In 1968 I was a junior biology major taking Dr. Steinberg's popular embryology course. He was 40 min late for a lecture (because of a GI upset which he recounted in some detail) The entire class had waited the full 40 min because he was such a dynamic lecturer. Some of us later remarked that we may wait for a full professor for 30 min, an associate 20 min, and an assistant 10 min. I do not know what academic rank He had at the time, but in our minds young Dr Steinberg transcended these ranking and was worth the full 40 min wait.
In a sense, I owe my life to Malcolm Steinberg. As the son of a physician, I felt a certain degree of parental pressure to go to medical school – but I loved mathematics, chemistry, and physics. I was accepted to a 5 year BS/MD program, but elected to go to Princeton instead. As I looked at a number of my brilliant classmates, I realized that although I would make a good research scientist, I would not be the next Newton or Einstein. In a moment of existential clarity, I decided I wanted to spend my life fighting disease and death – so I decided I would eventually go to medical school.
Because I needed to take a certain number of biology classes, and as I had received Advanced Placement credit in biology, I elected to take Mal Steinberg’s class as a sophomore. When I learned that tissue differentiation could be explained by gene expression and the laws of thermodynamics, I was fascinated, and I elected to major in Biochemistry (the department is now the Molecular Biology department). I performed my senior thesis in Mal Steinberg’s lab.
Because of my biochemistry major, I had a strong background in intermediary metabolism. As a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, those of us with good training in biochemistry were encouraged to take an advanced graduate-level class in biochemistry rather than the basic medical school course. I had a strong family history of coronary artery disease, and elected to train in internal medicine and cardiology. I did my internal medicine residency at Temple University Hospital under the leadership of Sol Sherry, the father of thrombolytic therapy for myocardial infarction, pulmonary emboli, and stroke. As a cardiology trainee at the University of Rochester Medical Center, one of my mentors, Phil Greenland (now head of preventive medicine at Northwestern, and one of the gods of preventive cardiology) was looking at a new class of drugs (statins) to reduce cholesterol. When I spoke to Phil about this, he said to me, “Ken, you have a strong background in biochemistry and metabolism, so when this sorts out, you’ll be able to understand it. You should focus on developing clinical skills in invasive cardiology and echocardiography.”
At the age of 41, I diagnosed myself with coronary artery disease, and had multivessel stenting. The evidence of the impact of lipid lowering therapy on the progression of coronary artery disease was beginning to come to the fore (the 4S and West of Scotland trials had just been published). I went down to Penn to see Daniel Rader, a leading figure in lipid research. He started me on a multi-drug regimen. Given my background in biochemistry, I was able to start studying lipid metabolism and pharmacotherapy – I started attending training programs and lectures given by Dan Rader, and by Thomas Pearson at the University of Rochester. I started titrating my lipid-lowering regimen to bring my lipids below caveman levels, and to raise my high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. I’ve managed to raise my HDL to above my LDL, I have a negative stress echo at a very high heart rate and workload, and I have been fine for 14 years. I’m such an outlier among patients with premature CAD that I’m considering publishing myself as a case report.
The bottom line is that Mal Steinberg’s brilliant application of the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the sorting of tissue in embryos stimulated me to advance my knowledge in that realm – and that thanks to that knowledge, I’ve survived and thrived despite an illness that killed many of my grandparents and their siblings – some of them at a rather young age. The knowledge that I gained has also helped me keep many of my patients alive and healthy. I will always honor Malcolm Steinberg’s memory, because the inspiration and knowledge he gave me as a Princeton undergraduate was essential in shaping and preserving my life.
Kenneth A. Bernhard, MD, FACC, FACP
I first met Malcolm Steinberg, eight years my senior,at a Developmental Biology meeting in 1972. I was an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign at the time, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. My mentor there was Charles E. Wilde Jr, who made all of us in the lab read Mal's pioneering work on cell adhesion and the thermodynamics of cell sorting. Our lab at Illinois later applied his ideas to detect gradients of positional identity along the proximodistal axis of regenerating limbs. I got to know Mal as a friend after one of my undergraduate students, Tom Poole, became his graduate student, working on pronephric duct migration. I admired and respected Mal's brilliance, intellectual honesty, wit, and his decency toward his fellows of the species. We have lost a great one, and he shall be mised.
David L. Stocum