Who is Anne Kastor?
Anne Sarah Kastor was born in New York in 1964 to Mae and John Kastor, a psychiatric social worker and a cardiologist. She had an older sister, Elizabeth, and a younger brother, Peter. They grew up in Boston and Philadelphia. Anne graduated from Milton Academy in Massachusetts, got a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988 and an M.D. from UC San Francisco School of Medicine in 1996, where she also completed her internship and residency in internal medicine. During her years in California, she worked on women’s health issues, harm reduction and HIV treatment and management. In 1999 she moved to Brooklyn, and worked as a medical director at Project Renewal and Housing Works before moving to SUNY Downstate in 2002. At Downstate, she was a faculty member and primary care physician. She particularly loved the students at Downstate, so many of whom were first-generation college graduates, immigrants or non-traditional students.
Anne loved teaching and grew increasingly interested in reforming medical education to make it more patient-centered. She left Downstate in 2008 to become director of the doctoring course at the proposed Touro University medical school; she was excited by the opportunity to create a new way of educating doctors, but Touro abandoned the project within a year. In 2009, Anne joined the faculty of Cornell and became the director of the Weill Cornell Community Clinic. Although on the Cornell faculty until her death, Anne was unable to work for the final two years of her life. She died of ovarian cancer on July 5, 2013 at 49.
Anne studied classical piano for years and loved music, cooking, New York, the off-leash dog hours in Prospect Park, and, most deeply, her wife Jill and daughter Holly. She was morally and socially committed, a proudly progressive activist. Not someone, in fact, you would expect to have a subscription to People magazine. But, she explained once, “You can’t be serious all the time.”
Anne wasn’t serious all the time—only about the things that really mattered.
When the idea of opening a student-run clinic formed at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, the students looked to Anne to serve as a physician, mentor, and champion. In his remembrance of Anne, Dr. David Marcus, one of the medical students who founded the clinic, explained Anne’s role in launching this important initiative:
“She always made herself available to us, arranged for meetings with hospital leadership, and generously gave from her wisdom. She gave us the freedom to explore all of our ideas while keeping close tabs on our work, and she never hesitated to rein in the group when our visions for the clinic bordered on delusional. Then, when the Brooklyn Free Clinic (BFC) finally opened its doors after 18 months of hard work, she became the first, and for several months its only, preceptor.”
Because of her tireless efforts throughout her career as a community health worker, and then as a doctor, to provide medical care for people who otherwise would not have had access to it, the BFC honored Anne in May 2015 by renaming itself the Anne Kastor Brooklyn Free Clinic. Her legacy will live on as we continue to provide comprehensive, high-quality medical care to the uninsured in Brooklyn.