Autumn Marie Klein, a physician in the forefront of treating pregnant women with neurological diseases, collapsed at home in Oakland and died Saturday at UPMC Presbyterian. She was 41. Results of an autopsy are pending.
Colleagues were in shock at the loss of a young and valued colleague who already was becoming the acknowledged leader in a field with very few experts.
"This is an irreplaceable loss," said Robert Friedlander, chairman of neurological surgery at UPMC, who recruited Dr. Klein from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital in 2011 to become chief of the division of women's neurology and assistant professor of neurology and obstetrics and gynecology at UPMC's Presbyterian and Magee-Womens hospitals.
"She was a gifted clinician and a rising star," Dr. Friedlander said. "There are a lot of nuances in how the brain works, and she was coming out to be a world expert in that topic as it relates in pregnancy. Should a patient with an aneurism, for example, have a C-section or a vaginal delivery, can they push ... she was writing chapters on the topic and her advice was sought by internists and OB-GYNs."
Lawrence Wechsler, chairman of the neurology department at UPMC, added: "Autumn was a pioneer as well as a caring doctor, wonderful teacher, researcher and mentor.
"She had the vision that women had special problems in neurology that were not being adequately addressed, so she took that project on and made tremendous progress. She addressed the needs of a group of people who really needed her help and benefitted from it."
One of her main areas was managing epilepsy and other seizure disorders during pregnancy. She also concentrated on problems that could result from multiple sclerosis and a predisposition to blood clots.
"It's a difficult area that requires a lot of expertise," Dr. Wechsler said. "There just aren't that many people who have concentrated on it. She was looking for people to train and expand the field. Now we've lost that. We are starting a fellowship in her name at the University of Pittsburgh to help carry forward what she started."
Dr. Klein came to Pittsburgh with her husband, Robert J. Ferrante, a leading researcher in ALS and Huntington's disease from Harvard Medical School, also recruited by Dr. Friedlander to become a Pitt professor of neurological surgery. The couple have a daughter, Cianna, age 6.
Born in Baltimore and graduated from St. Paul's School for Girls, Dr. Klein received multiple degrees in neuroscience -- a B.A., from Amherst College in 1993, followed by an M.D. and Ph.D. from Boston University School of Medicine in 2001. She did an internship in internal medicine at Brown University, was chief resident in neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and had a faculty appointment at Harvard Medical School as well as numerous affiliations with other hospitals, professional and scientific societies. Dr. Klein also published dozens of papers, reviews and book chapters, and was a sought-after presenter at meetings and conferences.
In addition to her husband and daughter, she is survived by her parents, Lois and William Klein of Towson, Md.; a stepdaughter, Kimberly Ferrante of San Diego; and a stepson, Michael Ferrante of Boston.
Friends will be received from 6 to 9 p.m. today at McCabe Brothers Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut St., Shadyside.
A funeral will be held in Baltimore at a later date.
Contributions may be sent to Pitt, indicating in the memo line "Autumn Klein Fellowship in Epilepsy," Medical & Health Sciences Foundation, Attn: Amy Lombard, 3600 Forbes Ave., Suite 8084, Pittsburgh, PA 15313.
Sally Kalson: email@example.com or 412-263-1610. First Published April 24, 2013 4:00 AM