Monday, February 2, 2015

In Memoriam Boris Henry Ruebner, MD, 1923-2014

Boris H. Ruebner, MD, 1923-2014
Boris, a long time member of the Hans Popper Hepatopathology Society, passed away June 11, 2014 at the age of 90. Boris was born in Düsseldorf. He recalled to me that, at the age of 13, he attended the 1936 Berlin Olympics with his father. He moved to England in the late 1939 where he attended Winchester College, followed by the University of Edinburgh Medical School. After graduation in 1946, he studied and practiced pathology at Hammersmith Hospital in London and the University of Heidelberg. He emigrated to Canada where he was a member of the pathology staff of Dalhousie University in Halifax from 1957 to 1959. He was married on campus in King’s College Chapel. Together, we visited the same chapel during the 2007 Laennec meeting, shortly before his 50th wedding anniversary.

Boris was on the staff of Johns Hopkins University for a decade before being recruited, in 1968, to the inaugural staff of the University of California (Davis). During his long career, he published more than 180 peer-reviewed articles. He was well known for his textbook “Pathology of the Liver and Biliary Tract”, co-authored with Carolyn Montgomery (1982 and 1991). Although Boris officially retired in 1994, he maintained a consultation practice and continued to teach into his late 80s. He was a popular and award-winning teacher. In recognition of his contribution, the Division of Gastroenterology created the Ruebner-Rosenquist Outstanding Teaching Award in 2010.

I was first acquainted with Boris through his writings. While pursuing a project at Johns Hopkins in the 1980s, I reviewed all the autopsy liver slides on file from a period of 80 years and assembled some data. Afterwards, I discovered that Boris had reviewed the same liver slides and had already published similar data.  Boris was always a step ahead of me! We finally met in person at the inaugural planning for the Hans Popper Hepatopathology Society during a USCAP meeting. A few years later, he became one of the founding members of the Laennec Liver Pathology Society. He was present at the first summer meeting in 2000 and every subsequent annual meeting until he was 88. He was a committed traveller and made the Laennec meetings a reason to get about, scrambling over rocks and roots with the fittest. He suffered a ruptured tendon in his mid-80s but continued to press on with the help of great personal tenacity and a stout cane. One memorable summer, at the age of 84, he visited the Hermitage in St Petersburg and returned, travelling alone, with a stop in Nova Scotia to attend the Laennec meeting. From there he took a bus to New York where he boarded his return flight to Davis. He still had the strength to attend 4 annual meetings after that. Travel was a tonic for him, just as his determination was a tonic for us. He was always with us, and now we miss him.

Ian R. Wanless, M. D.
Department of Pathology,
Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

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