In the end, it really didn’t matter where this gentle man’s last breath was taken. After all, for his family, his close friends, his dear colleagues, countless patients (all now adults), and all who knew him well, it was understood that his heart, and soul, resided always in Pittsburgh.
Earlier this month, Dr. Arnold Steinman passed away in St. Joseph, Michigan. Born, raised, educated in (and nurtured by) Pittsburgh, Arnie opened his solo pediatric practice in the South Hills in 1957. In those days, there weren’t large medical practices in strip malls (there weren’t strip malls!) or enormous hospital systems. Just a doctor, a nurse, a secretary, and a few small exam rooms to care for children in a growing suburban community south of the city. A decade later, with his reputation as a talented diagnostician and provider of compassionate care well established, Dr. Steinman added a younger, equally talented and compassionate pediatrician — Joel Safier — and a decade after that, a third pediatrician who fit the mold perfectly: Judy Giga. Together, this trio of pediatricians grew a practice in Mt. Lebanon that, by the time I joined in 1990, was one of the most respected groups in Southwestern Pennsylvania. (The respect afforded to me instantly upon joining them was, I’m certain, due only to my wisdom in accepting the offer from such an esteemed group of pediatricians!)
Arnie was the man with the plan. The practice continued to grow and then expand further south into Peters Township. By 1995, a “feeding frenzy” of practice acquisitions was underway by the large insurance companies and local hospitals. Our group (named simply by the telephone greeting, “Dr. Steinman, Safier, Giga, Ketyer, and Walczak’s office”) joined other independent-minded pediatric groups in the Pittsburgh area and formed Pediatric Alliance. Not surprisingly, Dr. Steinman was the group’s first president.
While I’ll leave it to others to explain Pediatric Alliance’s mission and great success over the last eighteen years, Arnie’s vision of the way independent private medical practices could not only survive, but flourish, within the turbulent healthcare marketplace inspired younger, less-experienced physicians to take ownership of their professional lives and succeed. It was a risky move on our part — and, in retrospect, unmistakably necessary. Arnie understood that better than anyone. All of us in Pediatric Alliance are indebted to our first leader who saw opportunity instead of fear in healthcare’s changing landscape.
More than anything else, though, Arnie was a pediatrician’s pediatrician: educated and informed, soft-spoken and persuasive, gentle and compassionate, funny at no one else’s expense. In short, Arnie was a gentleman.
What he left to me was profound — greatly influencing my professional and personal lives in the most positive ways. He left his patients and their families — as well as his community — in better health. He left his three sons (and grandchildren) the same loving, compassionate, and giving qualities of true gentlemen themselves. He left his former colleagues and office employees — all of whom admired and loved him over a 40-year career in pediatrics and on into retirement — as his extended family that he admired and loved right back, today in mourning.
Arnie was a great man; a great pediatrician; a great person to know. He cared about you, about your children, about your world — he had your back. He laughed and he cried, all at the appropriate times. He was a gentleman. We will all miss him.