Stezoski was essential to success of Safar Center research

Stanley William “Bill” Stezoski — a rare staff member named research assistant professor in recognition of his vital work in the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research — died on July 8, 2019 at 84.

Stezoski arrived at Pitt in 1955 and became the right-hand laboratory aide to Peter Safar, the pioneering resuscitation medicine professor in the School of Medicine. Patrick M. Kochanek, now Safar Center director, saw Stezoski at work beginning with Kochanek’s arrival at Pitt in 1986.

“He was Peter Safar’s key technician,” Kochanek recalls. “He was just an amazingly great technical resource. Papers he’s been on have been cited a thousand times.”

Stezoski was essential to the success of Safar’s early research that simulated intensive care unit conditions, including 24/7 care, in animals, leading to the creation of today’s ICUs.

“Bill was critical for overseeing the research team of doctors,” Kochanek says — work that led next to a 15-year clinical brain resuscitation trial involving 20 centers worldwide. “It was the laboratory research that set the stage for those studies.”

Stezoski was in charge of assisting Safar’s trainees at every level, from medical generalists and specialists to graduate and undergraduate students: “He was the go-to guy in the labs. He was savvy at finding out what your role should be … and inviting young people so they felt like they belonged. Bill was there in essence to hold their hands and guide them through the details.

There were many visitors and funding agencies touring Safar’s labs, including top officials of the Department of Defense, looking for demonstrations of success, Kochanek says. Faced with such pressure, other research teams might have chosen a routine experiment as a demonstration, but not Stezoski and Safar: “Bill and Peter, they never took that approach. When they had guests coming, they went for the most exciting possible study. It was amazing how Bill Stezoski led those studies and they never seemed to fail. That level of capability was instrumental to the success of Peter Safar. It was a reflection of Bill’s confidence and capability in laboratory research.”

Stezoski retired in the mid-2000s. “He was a University of Pittsburgh guy through and through and always revered Pitt,” Kochanek says.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Cheryl; children Brad (Stacey), Jason (Sharon) and Bret; grandchildren Gabriel, Quinn, Amelia, Chance, and Audrey; siblings Vern and Theresa; and many nieces and nephews.

— Marty Levine