Mary Herman Rubinstein, MD

Class Year



Posted on: November 19, 2018

Mary Margaret Herman Rubinstein, M.D. was born to Esther Bross Herman and Elmer Fredolein Herman on July 26th, 1935 in Plymouth, Wisconsin. She died on June 9, 2017.

Mary is survived by twin sisters, Ellen Stephenson and Beth (Jim) Rasmussen, both of Madison, WI; brother, Tim Herman, Verona, WI; and younger twin sisters, Karen (Harry) Carlson, Genesee Depot, WI and Sharen (Jim) Wilson, Old Town, ME. Mary’s family is involved in teaching, ceramics and law. All of her siblings and her father attended the UW Madison.

She is also survived by stepchildren and great stepchildren in the San Francisco area, namely, stepdaughter Marion (Jonathan), and stepsons Edmund and Francis (Antoinette); Marion has two grandchildren, Laura and Simon. Mary’s husband’s other close relatives reside in England.
Fourteen nephews and nieces, 25 great nephews and nieces, and 4 great, great nieces and nephews also survive. A special thank you to Mary’s nephew, John Stephenson, Jr. and sister, Elizabeth Rasmussen, who provided great kindness and helpfulness in her last years.

Dr. Rubinstein graduated from the UW with a B.S. in medical science in 1957 and an MD in 1960. She was one of four women in her graduating class. After a year of house staff training at the UW in Neurology, then Dartmouth (rotating internship) and five years at Yale in Pathology/Neuropathology, she continued her neuropathology career at Stanford University in 1965 where she met and worked with Dr. Lucien Rubinstein. They were married in early 1969 and formed a team in neuro-oncology, with special emphasis on childhood brain tumors. She achieved tenure in 1974.

Mary’s major efforts were in the laboratory, where at Stanford she developed the three-dimensional organ culture system for the study of the influence of a variety of differentiating agents as a potential alternative treatment for brain tumors. In addition, she was instrumental in leading the laboratory in the use of a mouse teratoma for its potential to differentiate from stem cells into various in vitro and in vivo neural tumors. Both of these areas of research were unique at the time. In addition, she greatly expanded the study of human and experimental brain tumors with the use of electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry and was an early leader in these fields.

Her husband, Lucien Jules Rubinstein, predeceased her on January 22nd, 1990; this was a very harsh blow to their newly developed neuropathology laboratory (1981-1991), their future growth and personal happiness, and future retirement years together.

Mary decided to change her field of research, and in 1991 was fortunate to be chosen for the only available slot in neuropathology at the intramural program of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. She joined Dr. Danny Weinberger’s Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, a group highly regarded for major advances in schizophrenia research. Mary and Joel Kleinman, MD, PhD, head of the Neuropathology Section, built the neuropathology section and worked very hard to develop a brain donation program based on the availability of whole brains, rather than just small tissue samples.

Brain donations required documented permissions from the next of kin. They were often obtained from families whose traditions made them initially hesitant to allow donation. Mary was a leader for advocating the necessity of using human brain material for the study of psychiatric disorders. She gradually extended the cachement of the brain collection from the DC Medical Examiner’s Office to two other southeast DC hospitals and the Northern Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office. Years of working together on cases were required to gain the trust of these offices.

Mary was also essential in developing the Stanley Fund Brain Collection for nine years as their neuropathologist. As time permitted, she also provided neuropathology expertise to many ongoing projects at the NIMH and National Cancer Institute.

She continued active teaching and diagnostic work throughout her 53-year career, and retired after twenty-three years at the NIMH, in late November, 2013.

Mary viewed her professional life as an attempt to make original research contributions, while helping to protect a fragile subspecialty in pathology. As part of this, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health inaugural chair was established in the new Department of Neuroscience, the “Mary Herman and Lucien Rubinstein Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience.” In addition, she contributed her and Lucien’s professional papers to create the Rubinstein Herman Archive within the Ebling Library at the Health Sciences Learning Center.

In April 2017 Mary received the 2017 WMAA Medical Alumni Citation Award, given to the most outstanding UW Medical School graduate.

Collecting art was an important component of Mary’s life, especially collecting the work of Dirk Holger, of which she had an extensive collection and which she recently donated to the UW Whitewater. Previously, her art collections were donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA and to Frostburg University, Frostburg, MD. She was also physically active, playing competitive but fun tennis with friends and staff at the John Powless Tennis Center. She enjoyed music, especially playing compositions involving the violin and viola.

During the last years of Mary’s lymphoma treatments, she was cared for by Dr. Natalie S. Callander at the UW Carbone Center. Together, Mary and Dr. Callander managed to survive a highly malignant tumor for five years, a feat largely due to Dr. Callander’s outstanding intuition, dedication and clinical skills.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to support Dr. Callander’s research on lymphoma and myeloma would be greatly appreciated, and can be directed to the Trillium Fund, UW Carbone Cancer Center, 600 Highland Avenue, K4/658, Madison, Wisconsin, 53792-6164.