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Fred Kantor, An Appreciation

May 29, 2022
by Mark David Siegel

Hello everyone,

Dr. Fred Kantor passed away yesterday morning at age 90, surrounded by his family. I met him 30 years ago, when I came to Yale as a fellow. He was one of the few remaining physicians who’d trained under Paul Beeson. Fred was a renowned figure in immunology, and in the coming days, you will read about his academic contributions. Today’s comments are personal.

Fred helped set the tone in our department. He was brilliant. He distilled complex concepts into pearls of wisdom. In the MICU, we depended on him when patients needed desensitization or treatment for anaphylaxis. He spoke with clarity and confidence. He was the consummate clinician.

Fred embodied the essential elements of education, years before “adult learning theory” and “learning climate” entered our lexicon. He was a natural, intuitive teacher. He respected residents’ intelligence and sophistication, and he embraced the growing numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in our ranks. He gently pushed and prodded, he modeled intellectual humility, and he posed questions others were afraid to ask. His laughter made conferences as fun as they were illuminating.

Fred’s name will endure. All Yale residents know the “Kantor Rule,” a heuristic which boils down to “if you do something to someone and then something happens to them, it’s what you did that made it happen.” So, if you gave a patient penicillin and they developed hives, you knew where the hives came from. When the time came to name the Yale-New Haven Hospital Teacher-of-the-Year Award, it was obvious whose name to use. A few years ago, Fred and his wonderful wife, Linda, generously donated funds to our residency, “the Kantor fund,” which we use to support housestaff education.

A remarkable thing about Fred and his contemporaries is that they continued to attend teaching conferences long after retiring. Fred was a mainstay at Grand Rounds, perched over my shoulder in Fitkin Amphitheater, halfway up the right aisle. His face glowed whenever a Chief Resident stood at the podium for the first time. He was a consistent presence at Morning Report, ensconced beside other faculty, beneath the windows in the 9th Floor conference room. Even as his gait slowed and he began using a cane, his mind remained nimble. I valued his patience and grace as he refrained from speaking so trainees could shine. That said, he consistently added nuance to our discussions. When COVID came and the Chiefs were deluged with work, he volunteered to lead Report. He continued to join us by Zoom until just a couple of weeks ago.

Fred Kantor epitomized the humanity of our profession. He was a devoted husband, parent, and grandparent. He flew a private plane until his 80s, until he figured it was time to quit. He served on the intern selection committee for 46 years, a record unlikely to be broken. To those blessed to know him, Fred was a master teacher, a font of wisdom, and a model of kindness. He epitomized his own aphorism, “as good as any, nicer than most.”

Fred Kantor will live forever in our hearts, and we will do our best to honor his name and all that he meant to us.

We will miss our dear friend. May his memory be a blessing.


PS Dr. Kantor’s funeral service will be held on Tuesday morning at 11A:


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on May 29, 2022