Introducing the Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz Memorial Lecture Series

Jerry P. Rabinowitz, MD (1951–2018)

“He set the standard for what a physician should be"

An outpouring of grief, disbelief — and love — followed the news that Jerry Rabinowitz, MD, was among the 11 people senselessly murdered at Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018. At the time, he was helping to set up for Sabbath services for his Dor Hadash Reconstructionist congregation, where he and his wife, Miri, were devoted members and where he had served as past president.

Remembered by his heartbroken patients as a “model” doctor, he was a caring, compassionate, gentle, always cheerful, kind, and generous man who “set the standard for what a physician should be.”

“We grieve the momentous loss of Jerry Rabinowitz, MD, who graced the halls of UPMC Shadyside sporting a bow tie and a smile for so many years,” remembered John Innocenti, hospital president. “Stories shared by his patients, his family, and his colleagues really speak to the depth of his character and underscore the devastating loss that we all feel with his absence.”

“He was one of the finest people I’ve ever met in my life,” said Kenneth Ciesielka, MD, who first met Dr. Rabinowitz in college and formed a private family practice with him in 1986. “He had a moral compass stronger than anyone I have ever known.”

Dr. Rabinowitz received his MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and completed his internship and residency at the University of Pittsburgh at Shadyside Hospital. He became a member of Shadyside’s Family and Community Medicine Division in 1980 and served as Medical Staff president from 1993 to 1994.

“Jerry was the most remarkable person that I have ever met,” said his friend and patient Lori Cardille Rogal. Another longtime patient commented that “he treated everyone like they were his only patient.”

“He treated HIV patients in the ’90s without making them feel less than human,” said another. “He often held our hands (without rubber gloves) and always hugged us as we left his office.”

He made house visits to older patients, just to talk.

Mark Meyer, MD, chief of Family & Community Medicine, said, “From all I have heard from others and from my own experience, “Jerry was just what you’d want in a physician. He had a terrific sense of humor, and his image in our minds always includes a smile. As an advocate for his patients and for what is right, he was never quiet, and folks knew that he would not stop working on their behalf.”

David Hall, MD, founding physician of the East Liberty Family Health Care Center remembers, “Jerry Rabinowitz was a third-year resident when I was a resident, and he was my favorite senior resident. He was formative in my understanding of what it meant to be a physician. Always patient-centered, listening to what patients were saying, and how you apply knowledge to caring for patients. Regularly, his style of caring impacts how I care for patients today.”

“He would always put everyone else’s needs before his own,” said Avishai Ostrin, a nephew. “Always a smile on his face, always lending a hand.” On the day he was killed, Dr. Rabinowitz is said to have rushed toward the gunfire to try to help people.

“He just had this basic goodness about him,” said Mark Sarver of Washington, DC, a friend since grade school who was best man at Jerry and Miri’s wedding and who spoke at his funeral.

“Be well, my friend,” was the way Dr. Rabinowitz often would say goodbye after a patient visit. “Be well, my friend.”