Ruth Pick, MD
I have three treasures. Guard and keep them:
The first is deep love,
The second is frugality,
And the third is not to dare to be ahead of the world.
Because of deep love, one is courageous.
Because of frugality, one is generous.
Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world.
— –Lao-tzu,The Way of Lao-tzu
Dr.Ruth Pick was born in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, on November 13, 1913, and died on July 19, 2003, in Chicago, Illinois. These years bound a life of scholarship, accomplishment, courage, commitment, and humility. With the passing of Dr Ruth Pick at the age of 89, we have lost someone who was not only a silent but powerful contributor to cardiovascular medicine but also a woman of heroic proportions to all who knew and loved her. Ruth Pick was known by many as the wife of Dr Alfred Pick, who, along with Dr Richard Langendorf, created the pioneer investigations into complex arrhythmia analysis and was among the powerhouses who populated the Cardiovascular Institute at Michael Reese Hospital on Chicago’s South Side.
However, for many others who worked along side of Dr Ruth Pick for decades, she served as a powerhouse in her own way, as investigator, teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend.
Dr Pick began her education in Czechoslovakia and received her MD degree from the German University of Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1938. She and her husband had married just 2 years earlier. Their deep love for each other saved their lives. During World War II, they were forced into captivity in the Czech Republic and latter imprisoned in Auschwitz. Fred was in a line destined for death in a gas chamber but snuck away to bring Ruth a small piece of chocolate; on his return to the line, he was diverted into another line and sent to a labor camp instead of death.
In 1949, Fred and Ruth came to the United States and began to do work at Michael Reese Hospital under the leadership of Dr Louis Katz. Beginning as a Research Fellow, there began a career for Ruth during which she collaborated with many key scientists and was an integral part of the research leading to our current understanding of atherosclerosis and interstitial heart disease. Her colleagues and collaborators included Drs Jeremiah Stamler, Louis Katz, Richard Langendorf, Earl Silber, Gerald Glick, Karl Weber, Joseph Janicki, Sanjeev Shroff, Joseph Capasso, Piero Anversa, Jorge Jalil, Christian Brilla, L.B. Tan, Gordon Moe, Irvin Zucker, and Paul Armstrong. She was joined in the laboratory by remarkable technical support, including Art Jones and Luba Verlinsky. The fruits of those relationships included more than 150 scientific papers that formulated the relationships between dietary cholesterol and heart disease and collagen expression and ventricular remodeling and dysfunction.
Perhaps more lasting than the tireless scientific contributions Ruth gave us collaborating, working, and writing well into her late 80s were the examples she set as a mentor and model. Ruth was in every way a modern woman. She was an outspoken, independent leader. She was active in the American Heart Association as a fellow but was also exceedingly active in the development of the strong Chicago Branch; she served on the Board of the Chicago Heart Association, served on its Executive Committee, and acted as its President between 1985 and 1986. She also was an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association for nearly a decade. Indeed, a fond memory was always meeting Ruth at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association; she was ever learning and leading.
Until she was home bound just last year, Ruth was to be found in her laboratory on a daily basis, following the literature, being consulted by colleagues from all over the world, and working on the New York Times crossword puzzle despite failing health.
Thus we recall Dr Ruth Pick to our memories. She had suffered more than any of us and seen atrocities that would have extinguished the spirit in most, and yet, she survived and contributed; she loved and taught; she inspired and led. Most who knew her never knew of her status as a Holocaust survivor, and if they did, they did not hear about it from her. She chose rather to make her persona that of a committed scientist and investigator; she was indeed that as well as a cherished friend and colleague who was in all ways courageous, generous, and a leader(⇓).