PIVER, Steven


September 29, 1934 – May 7, 2022

Ever since he was a teenager, world renowned oncologist Dr. M. Steven Piver had stepped forward to help people stay out of pain.

In high school, after witnessing the plight of a poor family living in a dirt floor garage, he organized a campaign among high schools in his hometown of Washington, D.C. to provide toys for needy children.

“I wasn’t trying then — and I’m not now — to be a saint,” he told an interviewer. “It’s just obvious to me that this is something I have to do. So throughout my life I have.

When his father died prematurely of tuberculous meningitis, a result that is now preventable, he decided to go to medical school so he could provide a cure.

While caring for his most famous patient, comedian Gilda Radner, he decided to find out if her type of cancer was common in certain families and set up a global registry to track it and warn women about it.

The Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Registry has worked to identify specific genes that cause ovarian cancer, educate women and doctors about the disease, and find a blood test to detect it at its beginnings, when it is most likely to be cured.

After Radner’s death in 1989, Dr. Piver collaborated with her husband, actor and comedian Gene Wilder, on a book, “Gilda’s Story”, which not only made him a media star, but also highlighted light the detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. .

“Gilda Radner’s death is going to end up saving more lives than all of my colleagues and I put together,” he told Buffalo News TV critic Alan Pergament in 1990. “Until Gilda’s death, Ovarian cancer was in the closet. No one talked about it. It was a silent killer and people died. We now have many ways to prevent people from dying, but no one knew about it.

He also helped found Gilda’s Club of Western New York.

Dr. Piver died May 7 in Buffalo after a battle with lung cancer. He was 87 years old.

Born in the District of Columbia, where his parents, Russian Jewish immigrants, operated a liquor store and delicatessen, he was the youngest of three children. Severely dyslexic, he failed first, fifth and tenth grade and made up for his difficulty in reading by researching comic book versions of classic novels. He told Buffalo News reporter Louise Continelli in 1998 how he searched all over Washington “to find the classic ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ comic strip for my first English class book report.”

His determination led him to become president of his high school class and graduate magna cum laude from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

After earning his medical degree from Temple University, Dr. Piver served in the Air Force and did postgraduate work at Nazareth Hospital, Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital and the University of Texas MD Anderson Tumor Hospital and Institute.

Dr. Piver joined Roswell Park Memorial Institute, now Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, in 1971 as associate chief of the department of gynecologic oncology. He became head of the department in 1984 and served until 1998, when he was named chairman emeritus and special assistant to the chairman and CEO of Roswell Park.

At Roswell Park, he became one of the top surgical oncologists in the country. His research has resulted in over 400 articles in professional publications and eight textbooks. For developing his method of improving the effectiveness of antitumor agents, he was named Inventor of the Year by the Niagara Frontier Intellectual Property Law Association.

Citing his devotion to his patients, his family recalled how, after a severe lake-effect snowstorm in 1996, they were surprised to find him gone in the morning, tire tracks deep in the snowdrifts indicating that a few feet of snow weren’t going to stop him from doing his rounds in Roswell Park.

“It’s an honor to be a doctor,” he once told an interviewer. “You take care of people, you treat them like they’re your family.”

In 1999, Roswell Park established its first endowed post in her name to support patient care and research in women’s cancers.

Later that year, Dr. Piver moved his medical practice to the Sisters of Charity Hospital, which improved its cancer services. He was a senior gynecological oncologist until 2016 when he retired at the age of 81. The hospital honored him with its Mr. Steven Piver MD Center for Women’s Health and Wellness.

His charity work and community service have earned him numerous accolades, including the AIDS Family Services Unsung Hero Award in 2000 with his wife, Susan. He was named Buffalo News Citizen of the Year in 1989.

At D’Youville College, now D’Youville University, he served several terms as Chairman of the Board at a time when the college was beginning its expansion and modernization. D’Youville presented him with his Community Service Award in 1992, an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1997 and his Health Care Award in 2000.

Dr. Piver has served on numerous boards including United Way, Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo, Temple Beth Zion, Sisters Hospital Foundation, American Cancer Society of Erie County, and Irish Classical Theater Company.

The Friends of Night People, a soup kitchen in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood, benefited the most from his volunteer work.

Dr. Piver brought a group of volunteers from Temple Beth Zion in 1985 to serve meals there at Christmas so that the Christian volunteers could spend the holidays at home.

He then saved the agency from eviction and led a fundraising campaign to buy and renovate his building at Hudson and Wadsworth streets. Chairman of its board of directors for nearly 10 years, he set up a clinic there and brought in volunteers to provide medical services.

An avid runner and golfer, he played golf frequently with his children and grandchildren and had two holes in one.

He married the former Susan Myers, a health lawyer, on June 25, 1970.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Dr. Kenneth S.; two daughters, Debra E. Piver and Dr. Carolyn “Bobbie” Piver Dukarm; and four grandchildren.

Services were held May 10 in the Sisterhood Chapel at Temple Beth Zion, 806 Delaware Ave.