Richard Rifkind, American cancer researcher, Died at 88

Richard Rifkind was born on October 26, 1930, and died on January 1, 2019.

Mr. Richard Rifkind was an American cancer researcher.

He was born in Manhattan, New York, the son of Simon H. Rifkind and his wife Adele (Singer).

Richard graduated from the Loomis School (high school) in 1948.

Richard graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951.

The same year Richard commenced medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduating in 1955.

Richard served as an intern 1956-1957 then as a resident 1957-1961 at Presbyterian Hospital.

During 1957-59 Richard also served in the United States Air Force.

Returning to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Richard served as assistant professor 1963—1967, associate professor from 1967—1970, and full Professor of Medicine and of Human Genetics, 1970-1981.

While at Columbia, Richard “led a broad revision of the medical school curriculum designed to increase the students’ understanding of the scientific and research bases that underlay the practice of medicine.

Richard also was Director of Hematology at Presbyterian Hospital New York City from 1972—1981.

In 1980 Richard left Columbia for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (hereafter MSKCC), starting out as the department chairman of the Cancer Center.

The following year Richard was appointed director of the MSKCC’s graduate school.

In 1983 Richard was appointed Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, the experimental research arm of MSKCC.

Similar to the restructuring of curriculum which Richard had led at Columbia, at MSKCC Richard presided over a complete overhaul and diversification of the Institute’s research faculty towards making the organization ‘more advanced and adventurous.

Richard’s personal research was concerned with the control of malignant cell growth, leading to a new class of chemotherapy.

Richard held the positions of director of the graduate school and chairman of the Institute until his retirement in 2003, upon which he received the title of chairman emeritus.

In 1993 he was recruited to serve on the Board of Governors of the New York Academy of Sciences.

He also served on the boards of the New York Academy of Medicine and the New York Hall of Science.

Having been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow in Medicine and Health in 1965, Richard later served on the Foundation’s board from 1981-2016.

With numerous important medical institutions located in Manhattan, he recognized the possibility of making New York City a leader in medical science.

Along with others he was able to convince colleagues and administration of MSKCC to collaborate with other New York institutions in creating the New York Structural Biology Center which embodied his vision of a “shared research enterprise.

The idea of a center owned and operated collectively by nine highly competitive academic institutions was a pioneering social experiment that many viewed as unrealistic.

Its overwhelming success created a model that was subsequently replicated he vision, his strength and steadfastness of purpose formed the bedrock on which the Center was built.

Richard served as the Center’s first Chairman of the Board from 1999 to 2005.

In 2004 Richard and his wife made the The Venetian Dilemma, a film which explored the conflict between long- and short-term urban interests in Venice.

The film observed how through gentrification, native Venetians were being forced to move while the city is being transformed primarily into a tourist destination, while the city’s continual sinking contributes to the problems facing the city.

Shortly thereafter, the he embarked on a project to document the training of scientists.

“It amazed me to learn that making a film is very like doing science.

It’s a continuous process of asking questions and solving problems.

You can’t let yourself give up.

Richard spent several years documenting on film the experiences of three young scientists in training in a laboratory at Columbia University, not knowing if the students would fail or succeed in their projects.

The resulting film, Naturally Obsessed, received an award from the National Academy of Sciences, was broadcast around the world, and is used as a teaching tool in dozens of universities.

One message of the film is that “Failure is an essential step in the pathway to success.

He pass away at 88 years old.