ABOVE: Steven Seifert © The University of New Mexico, all rights reserved

Steven Seifert, a prolific toxicologist whose work offered insights into the properties and clinical treatment of venoms, died on May 18 at the age of 72. According to an announcement by his colleague, University of Arizona toxicologist Leslie Boyer, Seifert passed away peacefully from cancer-related complications.

Seifert was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1950. Boyer writes in an obituary published in Clinical Toxicology that he declared his interest in becoming a doctor at age three—and went on to earn a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1976. That led to a 20-year career in emergency medicine, according to a tribute posted by a funeral home.

Following a toxicology fellowship at the University of Colorado Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in 1999, Seifert pivoted to a clinical research career focused on envenomation, particularly snakebites, antivenom treatments, and the epidemiology of poisoning. After volunteering at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, Seifert was named medical director of the Nebraska Regional Poison Center in Omaha in 2001, according to his faculty biography at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Seifert held that position for six years; in 2007 he became a professor at the UNM School of Medicine as well as the medical director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center—two positions he held until his death.

Steven Seifert smiling at the camera with a snake draped around his shoulders
Seifert with a (nonvenomous) snake

“Undoubtedly, Steve’s academic passion was venom,” reads a memorial by American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT) President Kirk Cumpston. Seifert cofounded a venom research society called the North American Society of Toxinology in 2012 and served as its inaugural board president.

As a researcher, Seifert published hundreds of academic papers on venoms and antivenoms, and contributed to numerous clinical trials, some of which resulted in FDA-approved pharmaceuticals. In 2017, Seifert became the editor-in-chief of Clinical Toxicology, and he held the title until his death. Earlier this year, he published a review on snake envenomation in The New England Journal of Medicine, which Cumpston’s memorial refers to as Seifert’s “final treatise.”

In 2005, he cochaired a meeting called “Snakebites in the New Millennium,” according to his UNM bio. This meeting gave rise to what’s now known as Venom Week, a prominent annual conference for toxicology research which will hold its eighth symposium next week, during which Seifert, who is often credited for its continued success, will be memorialized.

See “Study Questions Sterility of Snake and Spider Venoms

Seifert won numerous awards for his work, including the 2022 Ellenhorn Career Achievement Award from the American College of Medical Toxicology. He was also a nominee for the US Presidential Service Award, won the State of Arizona Governor’s Special Recognition Award, and won the J.C. Penny Golden Rule Finalist Award for his work supporting sexual assault victims, according to his UNM bio. Seifert also received the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology’s Best Scientific Paper Award and the AACT’s Presidential Merit Award, among others.

Outside of his scientific and medical career, Seifert was an avid cyclist who regularly participated in the 100-mile-long El Tour de Tucson race, a writer and poet, and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He was also a jazz musician who played for multiple groups, including Once Again and The Steve Seifert Project, a group comprised exclusively of musicians from around the US with the same name.

Seifert is survived by his mother, brother, and sister, as well as his wife, son, grandson, nephew, and several nieces.