Larger than Life

 Beth M. Deutch
Beth M. Deutch

Award-winning radiologist and women’s health advocate, Beth M. Deutch, M.D., passed away Dec. 11 at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York from complications in treatment of multiple myeloma. She was 54.

Deutch was born Sept. 12, 1960 in Baltimore to Jacob, a Social Security Administration division chief and a former Towson University and Johns Hopkins University economics professor, and Ruth, a business education teacher at Woodlawn High School. Deutch and her two sisters were raised in Pikesville and became b’not mitzvah at Chizuk Amuno.

Her academic intensity and passion for life showed at an early age. She was a straight-A student at Milford Mill High School (except for gym, which she flunked because she refused to wear the bloomers she considered so distasteful), and she sang in the school musical, served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and interned on the police beat at The Baltimore Sun. She held internships with the Maryland State Legislature and U.S. Congressman Clarence Long.

She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, earned her medical degree at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed
her residency and fellowship at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Deutch began her medical career at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and was responsible for starting the hospital’s breast MRI program and helped pioneer its stereotactic breast biopsy program.

In New York, Deutch was also reintroduced to a childhood friend, Lawrence Rubin, because her mother had arranged for Deutch to take a room in Lawrence’s apartment. There was confusion however; Deutch thought she was going to be one of several roommates, but it wound up being just the two of them.

“She called up my mother and said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to make it this whole summer in this apartment,’” recalled her sister, Charisse Litchman. “About a week later she called back and said ‘I’m in love.’”

The two grew close exploring New York together on the back of Larry’s motorcycle and wed in 1988. Together, they have two sons and a daughter, whom Deutch credited as keeping her happily grounded.

“It was a beautiful love story right to the end,” said Shelley, Deutch’s sister.

In 1993 Deutch created a state-of-the-art breast-imaging program at the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey, where she was the director of breast imaging, then later became its medical director.

In 2002 Deutch founded HerSpace, a breast imaging center in Eatontown, N.J., built around the concept that every woman deserves to have examinations in a relaxing environment with the latest diagnostic tools, compassionate care and same-day diagnosis.

“She really felt that women deserved, frankly, a more reassuring experience than they were able to get through the hospital,” said Shelley.

For her work, Deutch received Top Women’s Imaging Specialist (Medical Imaging Magazine, 2008) and Best Practice of the Year (Physicians Practice Magazine, 2008). She was honored as the 2013 Celebration of Life Ambassador by the Cancer Support Community of the Jersey Shore.

Deutch was an active member of the Radiological Society of North America, the American College of Radiology, the American Association of Women Radiologists and the Society of Breast Imaging. She was the first radiologist in New Jersey certified to read digital mammography.

As passionate as Deutch was about her work, she was an equally fervent patron of the arts. She collected and commissioned contemporary art pieces for her family’s stunning modern home and designed elaborate gardens that were featured in New Jersey Monthly.

In an interview, Deutch noted that she was a believer in the power of physical space to inspire and validate.

She said, “When you surround yourself with beauty, it lifts you.”

Deutch also launched The Art of Survival, a Monmouth County-based arts program created to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research and education during October, breast cancer awareness month.

Deutch was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. She beat the disease, but two years later developed multiple myeloma, for which she underwent three rounds of stem cell transplantation. She was laid to rest on Dec. 14 near her home in Eatontown at a service officiated by Rabbi Harry Levin.

In her eulogy, Litchman said: “If I had to describe what Beth was in celestial terms, it would be as a brilliant blue star, burning brighter than most and unfortunately running out of fuel too soon.  I find it an apt comparison as Beth’s world was like the universe, with no charted boundaries.  She was larger than life and pulled all around her along for the joyous ride with her inescapable pull.”

Deutch is survived by her husband, Lawrence Rubin, and their three children, Simon, Noah and Charlotte; father Jacob Deutch; sisters Shelley Deutch and Charisse Litchman; and six nieces and nephews. Her mother, Ruth, passed away a month earlier from pancreatic cancer.

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