April 28, 1994
Vol. 13, No. 17

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    Robert Stepto, Obs. & Gyn.

    Robert Stepto (Ph.D.'48), Professor Emeritus in Obstetrics & Gynecology, died of a heart attack on April 16 in his Hyde Park home. He was 73.

    A prominent Chicago physician and educator, Stepto was a well-known figure in obstetrics and gynecology, serving in leadership roles at several Chicago institutions as well as on national committees for nearly 50 years. He was also a leader in promoting the use of colposcopy and cytology, serving as an early advocate of such techniques as the Pap smear to collect and analyze potentially cancerous cells from a woman's cervix.

    "Bob Stepto was a loyal and very capable teacher and clinician, an excellent gynecologist and gynecological surgeon, and a valued faculty member," said Arthur Herbst, the Joseph Bolivar DeLee Distinguished Service Professor and Chairman of Obstetrics & Gynecology. "He also had a powerful sense of civic duty, spearheading local and national efforts to improve medical care and prevent illness."

    The author of nearly 50 scientific publications and more than 200 presentations at scientific meetings, Stepto was nonetheless best known as an educator. He trained hundreds of medical students and residents at several Chicago medical schools in the techniques of gynecological surgery.

    Born in Chicago, Stepto graduated from Englewood High School and received his B.S. in 1941 from Northwestern. He served in the Army Medical-Nutrition Laboratory during World War II and received his M.D. from Howard University College of Medicine in 1944. He completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Provident Hospital and at Chicago Lying-in Hospital while working toward his Ph.D. in pathology, which he received from the University in 1948. He then served for two years as a U.S. Public Health Service postdoctoral research fellow at Michael Reese Hospital.

    In 1950, while serving as an attending surgeon and later as chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Provident Hospital, Stepto became a research associate at the University of Chicago Medical Center. From 1951 to 1953, during the Korean War, he served in the Army Medical Corps, attaining the rank of captain. After the war, he taught at Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine and then at the University of Illinois before becoming chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Medical Center, a position he held from 1970 to 1979. During those years, he also was professor and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Chicago Medical School (1970 to 1975), director of obstetrics and gynecology at Cook County Hospital (1972 to 1975) and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Rush Medical College (1975 to 1979).

    Stepto joined the Chicago faculty in 1979 as Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Section Chief of Gynecology Surgery. During his tenure at the University, he contributed significantly to the teaching of innovative gynecological surgical techniques, including the introduction of gynecological laser surgery. He retired from the University in 1990 and that same year again became acting chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Mt. Sinai.

    Stepto was active in numerous medical and civic organizations, including, most recently, as vice president of the Chicago Board of Health from 1980 to 1987. He was the recipient of many honors, including distinguished service awards from the International College of Surgeons and from the University of Chicago Alumni Association.

    Stepto is survived by a son, Robert Burns Stepto; a daughter, Jan Stepto Millet; and four grandchildren. His wife, Ann Burns Stepto, died in 1991.