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Dr. Katherine M. Detre

Year of Birth / Death

1926 - 2006

Medical School

Queen's University Medical School



Career Path

Dr. Katherine M. Detre


As a child I looked up to my teachers and doctors and decided to become one of them.


In 2002, Dr. Katherine M. Detre was named a distinguished professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, in recognition of her many acheivements. A leading expert in epidemiological analysis, she designed and led large-scale health studies undertaken across the country.

She was born Katherine Maria Drechsler, in Budapest, Hungary, in 1926, and as a student in Hungary at the end of World War II, devoted herself to her studies to help cope with the loss of some of her closest family members during the war. She trained at Pazmany Peter Medical School, Budapest, before setting off for Canada in 1949 under an International Student Service Award. She graduated with an M.D. from Queen's University Medical School, Ontario, in 1952, and worked at Kingston General and Military Hospitals before completing her residency in Internal Medicine at Queen Mary Veterans Hospital in 1956. She moved to America in 1956 and married Dr. Thomas Detre. She attended Yale University, where she specialized in biometry, the application of statistics to biological sciences. She earned her Master of Public Health degree at Yale University 1964, and her doctorate in 1967.

The highest university title awarded a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, Distinguished Professor, recognizes "extraordinary, internationally-recognized scholarly attainment." Dr. Detre received this honor in recognition of her achievements as a medical researcher and leader in the field of epidemiology. She won several major grants for expansive studies of coronary artery disease and diabetes. In the year 2000, the National Institute of Health, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and several private sources, funded a study she designed and led with one of the largest grants in the history of the University of Pittsburgh, amounting to 70 million dollars. The study takes in forty areas nationwide and involves three thousand patients. The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health contributed the largest sum, amounting to 52.2 million dollars.

Dr. Detre was a fellow of the American Heart Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American College of Epidemiology. In 1992, she was made an honorary fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and in 2003, she received the Marion Spencer Fay Award for Women in Medicine.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle was my devastating World War II experience when I lost most of my close family. After the war I started my medical education in Hungary, but because of increasing political dictatorship, I decided to join a group of students who defected to the West. There, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to Queen's University, Ontario, Canada, where I continued and finished my medical education.

How do I make a difference?

I am in the field of designing and coordinating multi-center medical studies that evaluate treatments given to patients, mainly in the areas of coronary heart disease and end stage liver disease. Using scientific methods, such as randomized clinical trials or prospective observational studies, results of these studies contribute to establishment of evidence for treatment guidelines.

Who was my mentor?

I had many outstanding mentors at various phases of my studies. At a very young age, it was my older brother who had lasting influence on my thinking and on my values. My high school mathematics teacher made problem solving my favorite activity and at the University level, Dr. A. Beznak, Professor of Physiology at Peter Pazmany Medical School in Budapest, made the field of human physiology fascinating and stimulated my interest in research in physiology and pathophysiology.

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National Library of Medicine