University of Minnesota

Katherine M. Detre, MD

1926 — 2006

Dr. Katherine Detre was a leading CVD epidemiologist from the mid-1970s. In particular, Detre played a central role in trials, the CASS trial that established the therapeutic effectiveness of coronary artery surgery, and later as PI of a multicenter study of vascular complications of Type II diabetes coordinated by her Epidemiology Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Dr. Detre founded the Data Center that provides expertise to national research projects and patient registries.

Katherine Maria Dreschler was born and grew up in Budapest, a member of a lower middle class Jewish family, most of whom were later killed in the Holocaust. She attended Budapest’s Pazmany Peter Medical School, and eventually obtained a scholarship to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where she got her medical degree in 1952. After getting advanced degrees in public health at Yale in 1967, she moved with her husband, Thomas Detre, to the University of Pittsburgh in 1974, where her career in CVD epidemiology developed.

Her successor as head of the Epidemiology Data Center, Sheryl Kelsey, described Detre as holding “fast to the principle that a medical therapy is proven to work only when it has been rigorously tested.” Pittsburgh’s VP for Health Sciences, Arthur Levine, described her as the following: “Extraordinary intellectual energy, creativity, wisdom, bigness of spirit, civility and generosity toward all. [But] her greatest strength was in leadership, especially the governance and conduct of science.”

She was also a much-admired member of the CVD epidemiology community and its councils. (HB)


Henry Blackburn