Native of Vienna Kurt Elias, M.D., known for his conscientious and dedicated efforts toward personal care for his patients as a physician, combining elements of both the humanist and scientist, passed away in New York City on March 1, 2010 at the age of 91.
Born in Vienna in 1918 as the son of a professor of medicine, he completed one year at the University of Vienna before his medical studies were interrupted by the Anschluss in March of 1938. In an interview recorded by the Austrian Heritage Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, he told of when he “had to send someone else in to get my dissection kit and coat,” because Jews were forbidden entrance to the university.
Shortly thereafter he left Vienna for Prague before leaving for England to board the ship, “Normandie,” which took him to New York, where he arrived during the week of the Kristallnacht with only a suitcase and seven dollars in his pocket.
Once in America, he moved to Memphis, TN, where he graduated with a degree in Science (BS) and Anatomy (MS) in 1941. He returned to New York for his M.D. degree at New York Medical College, interned at Mt. Sinai and Metropolitan Hospitals, served two years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, before specializing in Pathology and Oncology. His interest in focusing on the psychosocial needs of patients led to an active psychosocial oncology program.
During his later years he opened a private practice in Manhatten while serving the Austrian Consulate in New York. In 2002 he was awarded the Decoration of Honor in Gold by the Austrian Federal Government for his services as the doctor for countless Foreign Service employees and émigrés.