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Editorial

In Memoriam: Daniel (Danny) Santa Cruz, MD

Sangüeza, Omar. P. MD*; Casas, José G. MD

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The American Journal of Dermatopathology: June 2020 - Volume 42 - Issue 6 - p 397-398
doi: 10.1097/DAD.0000000000001689
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Dr Daniel Santa Cruz, one of the best dermatopathologists of the last century, died on March 30, 2020. He was one of a generation of great dermatopathologists that included A. Bernard Ackerman, Helmut Kerl, Ronald Barr, Daniel Su, and others. This group of doctors has made incredible contributions to the field of Dermatopathology that have advanced the specialty and to whom we are all indebted.

Danny was born on November 10, 1945, in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, located in the Andes Mountains. He completed his medical studies and received his MD degree from the University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1972 (Fig. 1). During 1972–1973, he started his training in Pathology at the Hospital Ramos Mejia in Buenos Aires under the guidance of Prof. Dr José Gabriel Casas, who became his first mentor and close friend, a friendship that lasted until his death (Fig. 2).

FIGURE 1.
FIGURE 1.:
Danny as a medical student starting his career in pathology.
FIGURE 2.
FIGURE 2.:
Danny and his dearest friend Jose Gabriel Casas in Machu Picchu.

He married Christina Traboulsi in 1973 and from this union were born 2 sons Gabriel and Martin. One of his early jobs was as a physician in a Buenos Aires women's penitentiary, and while working there, he was kidnapped. His family had to pay a ransom to liberate him. This was an episode that marked him for the rest of his life and pushed him toward the decision to emigrate to the United States.

He moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1974 to start his pathology residency under Dr Dieter Assor. His command of English was not the best at that time. The first day of his residency was a hot sunny July day in Columbus; yet, he showed up at the Pathology Department in a raincoat and carrying an umbrella because he misunderstood the weather report. The following year he moved to Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, where he completed his training in 1978 (Fig. 3).

FIGURE 3.
FIGURE 3.:
Danny at Barnes in the annual picture.

After finishing his training, he was recruited to join the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in the Department of Pathology and the Division of Dermatology. Later, he joined the Department of Pathology at St. John's Mercy Hospital. Throughout his career as a faculty member and in private practice, Danny contributed significantly to the literature of Dermatopathology, publishing more than 100 articles on various areas of skin pathology. These included original descriptions of 25 new conditions including microvenular hemangioma, targetoid hemosiderotic hemangioma, which was later renamed hobnail hemangioma, cutaneous lymphadenoma, which is now consider a form of trichoblastoma. He also served as the Editor-in-Chief of Seminars in Diagnostic Pathology. He was a treasured teacher and mentor to many in both Dermatology and Pathology in North America, South America, and Europe (Fig. 4). Many of his former trainees hold positions of leadership at both academic institutions and in the private sector. In 2007, Danny cofounded Cutaneous Pathology, WCP Pathology, Inc, a business that employed more than 90 people and reached an annual caseload of more than 100,000 biopsies a year. He received numerous awards for his contributions, including the prestigious Founders Award from the American Society of Dermatopathology (2010)—a lifetime award for outstanding and significant contributions to the field. Danny remained active in Dermatopathology until the very end, routinely attending academic conferences, where his expertise and friendship were highly valued.

FIGURE 4.
FIGURE 4.:
Danny with Omar Sangueza, Sergio Gonzales, and Martin Sangueza in a meeting in Lima Peru.

Dr Michael Hitchcock one of his former fellows wrote this small remembrance of him, which essentially describes Danny.

“A very kind and incredibly intelligent man with a great sense of humor and love of family, despite his rascally ways. He loved hunting and proudly showed off his various trophies at home—as well as his handsomely stocked gun safe. He always had hilarious tales of his activities—one I recall was his vivid description of his dog being sick inside after eating spaghetti! Christina was definitely a long-suffering wife. He is one of the very few consultants who ever invited us to his home, showing the same great southern hemisphere that Kiwis are accustomed to. When he kindly accepted me to come to St. Louis, he was still at St. John's Mercy and helped us settle in immediately with hospitality and kindness. His stories of his hunting and adventures in his professional practice came on continuously.

He loved Dermatopathology and had a fantastic eye for patterns and diseases. He loved teaching—his contributions to pathology in St. Louis go back to the days of Barnes Hospital, as well as nationwide, with his presentations often prepared at the last minute, were entertaining and insightful. He must have had superb foresight—approaching Kodachrome presentations with the same last-minute scramble most of us have only been more recently able to achieve with PowerPoints. There were always several South American fellows visiting who added to the academic environment. I regard him as one of the greats of the South American pathologists who migrated to the United States right up with Juan Rosai, all of whom have contributed so much to the US and international scene. I will miss him and fondly remember him when he was full of more energy than he managed in his last few years.”

Of course, all his friends and former colleagues will miss his energy, his knowledge, and his humor. It has been a true privilege to know him and spend time with him. Rest in peace Danny, we miss you.

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