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Obituary: On the death of Professor Wolfram Sterry

Wolfram Sterry was born on March 5, 1949 in Marbach am Neckar. After graduating from high school in 1968, he did his military service in the German Armed Forces and then began studying English at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn until he received his intermediate diploma. In 1972 he decided to study medicine. He received his doctorate summa cum laude at the University of Cologne. He completed his specialist training in dermatology and venerology at the University Hospital of Cologne under Prof. Gerd Klaus Steigleder. In 1982 he habilitated on malignant skin lymphomas. Title of his habilitation thesis: On the genesis of the T cell system in the bank vole (Clathryonomys glareolus): Cutaneous malignant lymphomas.

From 1984 to 1991 he was senior physician at the Department of Dermatology at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel under Prof. Enno Christophers. There he worked under Prof. Karl Lennert in the Collaborative Research Center 111 of the German Research Foundation. Steigleder and Christophers had a decisive influence on him as a clinician and researcher.

In 1991, he was appointed Director of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Ulm; at that time the youngest director of a university dermatology clinic in Germany. In 1994, the Charité appointed him to the chair and director of the Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology in Berlin. During this period I got to know him personally through many joint events at the Charité. I admired him for his creative power and his actions, especially in the reorganization of the three Berlin skin clinics, which he merged and thus brought the Charité’s skin clinic back to its former size and positioned it at the top internationally. He created key professorships, which he filled with excellent scientists. From 1995 – 1998 he served as dean of the entire Charité.

In 1992, my father Eduard Grosse sold the H+G Zeitschrift für Haut- und Geschlechtskrankheiten (organ of several dermatological societies) to the Blackwell publishing house. Prof. Sterry, in his function as Secretary General of the German Dermatological Society (1997 – 2001), wanted to create a separate organ for the DDG during this time. This was to be an independent journal, such as the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, which would also generate sales for the DDG. Thus, under his aegis, DDG bought the journal H+G from Blackwell Verlag and re-edited it under the name JDDG – Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft. During a cozy get-together, Prof. Sterry said with a mischievous smile: “Perhaps one day you will be the publisher of this journal again, Mr. Grosse.

When Prof. Hagen Tronnier approached me to re-edit the journal Kosmetische Medizin, I immediately discussed this with Prof. Sterry and my father. We were united by an interest in history in general and in German dermatology in particular. During a meeting in his office at the Dermatology Clinic of the Charité, he encouraged me to publish this journal, as he saw aesthetic dermatology as a part of classical dermatology. “With this journal, Mr. Grosse, you have the opportunity to give aesthetic dermatology a serious, scientific organ in the German-speaking world and to represent it internationally,” said Prof. Sterry. He had a very translational view of dermatology before anyone even knew what it was.

When we held our congress series “Kosmetologika” at the beginning of the 2000’s, Prof. Sterry was congress president. At that time, in the eyes of clinicians, especially at the universities, aesthetics was not part of dermatology. He predicted that in ten years, all university dermatology clinics would have a department of aesthetic dermatology; how right he was!

We often met at conferences and at the Charité. Each time it was as if we had met only yesterday and we always had a lot to tell each other. However, when he handed over the management of the clinic to Prof. Torsten Zuberbier in 2012 for health reasons, we rarely saw each other anymore, which I regretted very much.

Prof. Sterry was a charismatic, results-oriented person. Working with him was inspiring and productive. He will not only be sorely missed by me.

His motto: Discere ne cessa, cura sapientia crescat: rara datur longo prudentia temporis usu! (Disticha catonis 4,27)*

Douglas Grosse

*Don’t stop learning, knowledge grows with commitment: rare wisdom can only be gained through constant effort!


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