M. Richard Katz, Neurosurgeon, Dies at 86

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M. Richard Katz | Photo provided

M. Richard Katz, an accomplished neurosurgeon and instructor at Einstein Medical Center, died June 27. The Penn Valley resident was 86 and suffered from bladder cancer.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Katz arrived in Philadelphia in 1969, when he was hired to lead the department of neurosurgery at Albert Einstein Medical Center, Northern Division.

At Einstein, he worked extensively with emergency room patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries and performed scheduled brain surgeries. Katz’s favorite task, however, was teaching the younger doctors, a responsibility to which he was endlessly committed.

His son, Charles Katz, recalled his father’s devotion to medicine.

“He broke his leg one winter skiing in Colorado and asked for a removable cast so he could still drive to the hospital.”  

Elder son Stephen Katz, now an orthopedic surgeon, trained under his father at Einstein.

“He was calm in tense situations,” Stephen Katz remembered. “He always had a joke or funny story to help his operating room team relax.”

In choosing his profession, Katz sought out the hardest field available, Charles Katz explained.

“He wanted the most challenging thing,” which, at the time, he considered the emerging field of neurosurgery.

He received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, in 1952 and 1955, respectively. Subsequent medical training took him across the world, with work as an Army physician stationing him in Tokyo, and further studies in microsurgery bringing him to Zurich, Switzerland.

In the states, Katz notably worked with renowned neurosurgeon Robert King at Syracuse University. It was there that Katz met his future wife, Carol Ann Pike, who worked at the university hospital.

“She was his rock,” Stephen Katz said. “He didn’t have to worry about anything because she had it taken care of. She understood his dedication to his patients because she was a nurse.”

The couple married in March 1963 and had three children, raised in Penn Valley. Carol Katz practiced Catholicism while Katz was Jewish, leading to a house full of celebrations, for Easter and Passover, Chanukah and Christmas.

As a father, Katz imprinted on his children the value of knowledge and hard work.

“He would constantly challenge us with math problem at the kitchen table,” Charles Katz said. “We would run to the encyclopedia to find answers to things.”

Both brothers agreed that despite their father’s busy work life, family held supreme importance to him.

“We were a close family,” Charles Katz said, referencing vacations to Colorado and Maine.

“My dad was really into family,” Stephen Katz added. He noted that after coming home from a long day at work, sometimes as late as 9 p.m., his father “would play catch with Charlie and me until dinner was ready, never taking time for himself to unwind from a long day.”

In addition to his sons, Katz is survived by daughter Lise Katz, five grandchildren, sister Nonie Cohen and companion Lucetta Strumia. He is predeceased by Carol Katz, who died in 2005.

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