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‘The pathologist who knew everything and did everything’: Stanford faculty remember Jon Kosek

Feb. 11, 2021, 8:28 p.m.

Jon Kosek, clinical professor emeritus of pathology at Stanford University, passed away at the age of 90 on Oct. 16. He died at his home on Stanford’s campus.

Kosek, a staff pathologist at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System for nearly 45 years, mentored and nurtured hundreds of pathology residents and medical students. He began his career there in 1964 and retired in 2009.

According to his colleagues, Kosek’s love of pathology and teaching encouraged many to pursue the same.

“I often used him as an example when teaching and mentoring residents, fellows and students,” Charles Lassman, pathology and laboratory medicine professor at the Geffen UCLA School of Medicine, wrote in an email to The Daily. He added that Kosek was a person who he “tried very hard to emulate [in] his attitude, patience and appreciation of living the life of a diagnostician, teacher, mentor and colleague.”

“Jon Kosek was a dedicated teacher and an expert pathologist who devoted decades to his field,” School of Medicine dean Lloyd Minor told Stanford News. “Countless trainees and colleagues benefited from his wisdom and guidance. He will be missed here at Stanford Medicine, and his influence in pathology labs across the nation will be lasting.”

Kosek was born Sept. 22, 1930, and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He attended Cornell College and went to medical school at the University of Iowa. He completed his residency training at Boston Children’s Hospital. From there, he moved to and found his home in Palo Alto, California and at Stanford.

Kosek’s colleagues all highlighted his passion for pathology. Lassman recalled a time when both he and Kosek were called to the operating room for a consultation. 

“I was quite annoyed at the interruption,” Lassman wrote. “Detecting my annoyance, he said, ‘What a wonderful job we have! Can you believe they actually pay us to do this? We should be paying them.’”

Stanford University Medical Center professor of pathology John Higgins wrote in an email to The Daily that “he was the pathologist who knew everything and did everything.” 

Lassman added that Kosek’s love of teaching was also evident, writing that he once biked across campus to carefully borrow a heart from an autopsy Lassman was performing to teach his students about heart disease. He returned two hours later to thank Lassman.

Higgins wrote that “he was also a people person and I remember how well he related to the high school kids that visited the morgue on a special program that Jon was involved in.”

“He taught me a lot, and I will miss him!”

Contact Iyshwary Warren at iwarren ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Iyshwary Warren is from Tallahassee, FL. She is the Stanford Medicine Beat Reporter and plans to pursue a career in medicine and research. Contact her at iwarren ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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