As a first-year medical student studying normal blood development, Dr. Steven Kuerbitz was struck by the beautiful shapes and colors of the stained bone marrow on the photographic slides.
“The notion that all of those cells came from a single ‘stem cell’ was a fascinating puzzle,” said Dr. Kuerbitz. “I became very interested in the biology of normal blood cell development and then in leukemia – blood cell development gone wrong.”
With his sights set on becoming a hematologist-oncologist, Dr. Kuerbitz discovered he liked pediatrics more than internal medicine during his third year of training at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. This led to a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Following his fellowship in 1991, Dr. Kuerbitz served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins before relocating to the Cleveland area in 1995. In 2001, he joined the staff at Akron Children’s Hospital as the director of the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Program. Today he also serves as the director of research in hematology-oncology.
While he may spend much of his time in the lab, his appreciation for art and beauty goes beyond the intriguing colors and shapes he sees under the microscope.
“I love the music of Bach, especially the keyboard works – organ and harpsichord – and the cantatas,” said Dr. Kuerbitz, who also enjoys going to the symphony.
Had he not pursued a career in medicine, Dr. Kuerbitz would have welcomed the opportunity to explore his love of music.
“With a bit more talent and a lot more practice, I fantasize that I could have made a career in music,” he said. Besides playing the saxophone in high school, Dr. Kuerbitz has played the piano and pipe organ for years.
As a college student, one of his mentors was a professor who held a doctorate in genetics, which sparked another interest.
“He had what seemed like a very satisfying career combining teaching and research, and I think that would have been a fine direction for me as well,” Dr. Kuerbitz said.
However, his career in pediatric hematology-oncology has proven to be very gratifying.
“The most rewarding and the most challenging part of my job is helping patients and their families deal with the worst crises of their lives,” he said.
As far as his own family, Dr. Kuerbitz and his wife of 28 years, Carolyn, who is also a physician, have four grown children: Jeff, 24, a medical student at the University of Cincinnati; Catherine, 22, who lives and works in North Carolina; Dan, 20, a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, and Ellen, 18, a freshman at Case Western Reserve University.
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