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Obituary: Arthur Z. Eisen, former director of Division of Dermatology, 88

Physician-scientist founded the division 50 years ago

November 20, 2017

Arthur Z. Eisen, MD, a physician-scientist who founded and then led the Division of Dermatology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in St. Louis after a short illness. He was 88.

Eisen founded the division in 1967 and remained its director for more than 30 years. During that tenure, he was the Winfred A. and Emma R. Showman Professor of Dermatology. Until his retirement this year, he remained active in clinical medicine and resident education, ran the Division of Dermatology’s weekly journal clubs, and attended clinical grand rounds each week.

“Dr. Eisen was one of the true giants in the field of dermatology,” said Lynn Cornelius, MD, director of the Division of Dermatology. “He embodied the quintessential ‘triple threat’ throughout his illustrious career – outstanding in research, clinical medicine and education. He will be forever remembered for his excellency by all in the division.”

Eisen was beloved by those he taught and mentored – so much so that several of his trainees established and endowed the Arthur Z. Eisen Junior Investigator Award at the School of Medicine to recognize the impact he had on their careers. The award supports the career development of exceptional residents and fellows in the division.

While Eisen enjoyed teaching and mentoring, he also was considered a longtime leader in connective tissue research. He focused on the genetic underpinnings of skin diseases and the role enzymes play in remodeling tissue, and was particularly interested in the cells that synthesize collagenase-1 in the dermal layer of skin.

He authored over 150 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, wrote several book chapters, and served as co-editor of a major dermatology textbook. He was recognized for his contributions to the field with awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Society for Investigative Dermatology, and Washington University.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Buffalo in 1951, a master’s degree from Brown University in 1953, and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957. He completed his internship, residency and fellowship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and then worked as a clinical associate in a dermatology lab at the National Cancer Institute. Before joining the faculty at Washington University, he served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and as a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Eisen is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mimsie Eisen; their son, Marshall (Gail) Eisen; daughters Phyllis (Alex) Kane, and Leah (Steve) Pazol; and several grandchildren.

His funeral and burial took place in Rochester, N.Y., last week.

Memorial contributions in may be made to the Division of Dermatology and/or the division’s Dr. Arthur Z. Eisen Junior Investigator Award fund, via Rachel Hartmann at Washington University School of Medicine; Medical Alumni & Development Programs; Campus Box 1247; 7425 Forsyth Blvd.; St. Louis, MO 63105-2161. Contributions also may be made to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.