Robert E. Kleiger, MD, longtime electrophysiologist in the cardiovascular division of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died of prostate cancer on January 21, 2022 at his home in St. Louis. He was 87 years old.
Kleiger, a professor of medicine, was a cardiologist widely known for his deep expertise in electrocardiography, the measurement and analysis of the electrical activity of the heart. A textbook he co-authored on the subject, “Clinical Scalar Electrocardiography”, was first published in 1972 and is still in use today. He was also a dedicated teacher and mentor to students, residents, fellows and faculty. In recognition of his outstanding teaching and training, he received the Benico Barzilai Teaching Award from the Cardiology Fellowship Program in 2021.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our distinguished colleague, Dr. Robert Kleiger,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Department of Medicine. “His legacy will continue in the countless students, residents, and fellows he taught over his long and outstanding career, as well as in the body of knowledge he developed and published to share his detailed understanding of the electrocardiography.”
Kleiger helped establish cardiovascular care in what was then the Jewish Hospital. He joined the faculty of the School of Medicine in 1969 and, at the Jewish Hospital, served as director of the cardiac station, medical intensive care unit and graphics laboratory. He was acting head of the hospital’s cardiology division from 1981 to 1985.
Kleiger’s first published study, in a 1961 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, described the initial use of electric countershock for the treatment of ventricular tachycardia, a life-threatening arrhythmia. Heavily involved in clinical research, Kleiger has also served as the site’s principal investigator or electrocardiography consultant for numerous clinical trials.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Kleiger received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1956 and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1960. He interned at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston in 1961 and continued his training with an in-house residency. medicine at Barnes Hospital in 1963. He then completed two fellowships in cardiology – at Harvard School of Public Health in 1965 and at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1969.
Through his philanthropic contributions to the Cardiovascular Division, the Robert E. Kleiger, MD Cardiology Endowment was recently established. The endowment will be used to support the division and an annual conference in its honor.
Beyond his brilliant career, Kleiger was an avid birdwatcher and photographer, interests he pursued on his many travels, including to Antarctica and the Gobi Desert.
He is survived by his nieces, Susan Kushner and Nancy Wasserman; their spouses and children.
A service was held January 28 at Knollwood Park Cemetery in Ridgewood, NY. The Cardiovascular Division will also hold a memorial service, on a date to be announced.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Robert E. Kleiger, MD, Endowment in Cardiology, fonds number 127472; Washington University in St. Louis, college advancement; MSC1247-414-2100; 7425 Forsyth Blvd; St. Louis, MO 63105.
Originally published by School of Medicine