On September 19, 2020, our beloved collegue and friend, Prof. Dr. Wolfram Sterry, passed away. In him we lost one of the most passionate clinicians and researchers, who was prominent the field of cutaneous lymphoma for more than 40 years.
Prof. Sterry was born on March 5, 1949 in Marbach, Germany. He studied medicine at the Univ. of Cologne from 1972-1978. In Cologne he met his first teacher in dermatology, Prof. K. Steigleder, with whom he completed his residency in dermatology from 1978-1982. In 1984 he moved to the Univ. of Kiel to become vice chairman at the Dept. of Dermatol. with Prof. Dr. E. Christophers. At the age of 42 he became Chairman of the Dept. of Dermatol.at the university in Ulm. In 1994 he was appointed Chairman of the Dept. of Dermatol. at the Charite in Berlin. In Berlin he developed the Department of Dermatology at the Charité with enourmous efforts and vision into one of the most renowned departments of the world.
Prof. Sterry was as a well-respected clinician, and additionall held numerous high-ranking national and international positions in the world of dermatology. Briefly, he was President of the German Dermatologic Society, President of the ESDR, and President of the ILDS, where he contributed with decisive develoments in each of these societies.
With regard to research he found his passion from the very beginning in the field of cutaneous lymphomas. Starting with his PhD thesis on enzymcytochemical analsyses of T-cells in 1978 and following his professorship thesis in 1982 on electronmicroscopical and enzymhistochemical analyses of T cells in cutaneous lymphomas, he continued to enrich this topic with a focus on immunology and molecular biology of cutaneous lymphomas for his entire life.
He was an essential part of the EORTC Cutaneous Lymphoma group, where he served as the president from 1992-1996 and contributed to the – absolutely practise-changing – EORTC-WHO classification system published in 1997. With his co-worker Peter Walden, he founded in 1997 the International Symposium of Biology and Immunology of Cutaneous Lymphoma (ISBICL), a high level scientific conference, with focus on basic and translational research. This was the first regularl meeting -every three years – of basic researchers and clinicians from around the world and was frequently the initiator of friendly and interdisciplinary collaborations. In February, 2013 Prof. Sterry organized and chaired the 6th ISBICL and made the 2nd WCCL in Berlin to a remarkable conference, although at this time he was already fighting for his own health .
Prof. Sterry was an enthusiastic clinician, for whom the patient was always the main focus. He indeed lived the approach „from bench to bedside“. The Monday evening meetings, in which he brought the whole cutaneous lymphoma team, including clinicians, dermatopathologists and basic researcher and PhD students, together, to examine and discuss cutaneous lymphoma patients will remain unforgetable by all who had the privilege to participate. In his pleasant and comfortable manner he demonstrated to us the suffering and need of the patients and stimulated us to give our best in clinic and research.
Prof. Sterry was a visionary and open minded leader and teacher. His innate discipline and appreciation for life were impressive and did not diminish despite fighting the vicious disease to which he finally succumbed.
I am personally grateful to have had the good fortune of having Prof. Wolfram Sterry as an academic teacher and mentor. I appreciated his enthusiasm and determination for science, as well as his inspiring, respectful and friendly approach to people.
He will be dearly missed! Our heartfelt condolences go to his beloved wife Dr. Gerda Sterry, his family and friends from over the world.
Chalid Assaf on behalf of the ISCL/EORTC CLTF