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December 15, 2017

Obituary: Bernard Klionsky

Bernard Klionsky, former vice chair of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was known for his dedication to medical students. He started the Bernard L. Klionsky fund, which supports students who take on pathology-related projects, and he even volunteered his time for free to Pitt pathologists, well into his 80s.

Klionsky, who died November 12, 2017, at age 92, wanted his students to understand more than just specimens on a slide.

To become effective doctors, Klionsky believed students need to be able not just to diagnose a medical condition, but recognize where each particular patient falls along the spectrum of a disease’s possible outcomes. Ultimately, though, this lesson — like all of Klionsky’s — was really about how to approach problems. He showed students how to become, as he put it, “highly trained problem solvers.”

Klionsky, a World War II veteran who grew up in Binghamton, New York, encouraged his four children to be problem solvers, as well; Daniel Klionsky said his father supported their varied interests. Although the pathologist disliked sports, he’d take Daniel to Pirates games, where they’d “calculate batting percentages of the next batter coming up and how a hit would impact that player’s average.”

At Pitt, Klionsky was a driving force behind the medical center’s central laboratories and the Central Blood Bank. He served director of laboratories at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC for 27 years.

Klionsky also invented the open-top cryostat — a device for storing pathology samples in the operating room, which forever changed surgical pathology. (Klionsky never profited from this invention, as he wanted it to be widely available.)

George Michalopoulos, the Maud L. Menten Professor of Pathology and chair of the Department of Pathology, said Klionsky was a mentor who will be missed. “He was universally respected,” Michalopoulos said. “He was successful at everything that he tried.”

Read more about Klionsky in this 2006 Pitt Med story.


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 9

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