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PRODUCED BY AND FOR MEMBERS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SURGERY July 2013 | Archived Issues

Danny Malaniak, Former Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, 1930-2013

During nearly four decades at Cedars-Sinai, Danny Malaniak earned a reputation as a virtual force of nature – a man who possessed great passion for the institution and knew how to get just about anything done fast.

As a senior member of Cedars-Sinai's leadership team, Malaniak was instrumental in the growth of its academic and research enterprises, earning the position of associate vice president for Academic Affairs.

He didn't use spreadsheets or algorithms. Instead, he wrote notes to himself and relied on a kaleidoscopic knowledge of the organization, energy and charm to help build Cedars-Sinai into one of the nation's premier academic medical centers.

Malaniak died last week after a long-standing illness, surrounded by his family at his Glendale home. As word of his passing spread through Cedars-Sinai, physicians, researchers, assistants and others recalled a leader who became the institution's administrative glue through much of the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, setting the stage for the modern-day health system.

"Danny was one of a kind," said Thomas M. Priselac, president and chief executive officer, and the Warschaw Law Chair in Health Care Leadership. "He brought to his work and his relationships with everyone he came in contact with the best that one can offer. His passion for his life, his work and most important of all his relationships with others were without parallel. Cedars-Sinai has lost a treasured part of our history, and I have lost a dear friend."

Malaniak's knack for solving sticky problems was almost legendary. The man who spoke six languages knew exactly who to call if a doctor needed extra lab space. He could find a spare freezer if one was needed for an experiment. He knew just the right person to ask – and how to ask – for funds to buy supplies or equipment. He also knew how to make others feel content even if he couldn't help them.

 "That was Danny – a sincere, hyper-energetic force of nature who never said, 'It can't be done,'" recalled Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, vice president of Clinical Innovation and the James R. Klinenberg, MD, Chair in Medicine. "He went out of his way to help new faculty get on the right path and break down any barriers they encountered. Their success was Danny's success. He will be greatly missed by the Cedars-Sinai family."

Malaniak arrived at Cedars-Sinai in the mid-1950s after several years in the U.S. Army. Just as he did in the military, he rose through the hospital's ranks, bringing a contagious enthusiasm for the organization, which would eventually honor him by establishing the Malaniak Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research.

After he retired in 1994, Malaniak served as a consultant. He also visited Cedars-Sinai frequently on his own time, holding court at his favorite couch on the Plaza Level near the North Tower elevators, calling out to doctors and others as they passed by to engage them in conversation and offer hugs.

"Danny was a gentle and sensitive giant of the bygone era of early Cedar-Sinai builders and leaders," recalled Shlomo Melmed, MD, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, dean of the Medical Faculty, and the Helene A. And Philip E. Hixon Chair in Investigative Medicine. "He loved our institution and devoted his every fiber to assuring the thriving of our nascent academic enterprise. His unmitigated support and counsel laid the foundations for the modern thriving system we have become. We will miss him sorely, yet we continue to celebrate the fulfillment of his decades of effort."

Malaniak was equally passionate about his native Ukraine and his heritage.

Born Bohdan Zenowij Malaniak, he spent his early years in Ukraine. Toward the end of World War II, his immediate family fled Soviet occupation, spending a year in Slovakia before winding up in a camp for displaced person in Germany after the war.

His family immigrated to the United States in February 1948, settling in Glendale. Several months later, Malaniak enlisted in the Army, serving six years on active duty and another 17 in the U.S. Army Reserve. During the Korean War, he was stationed mostly in Tokyo, assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Service, Far East Network. Malaniak visited Korea and had vivid memories of the Incheon Invasion.

Malaniak reached the rank of command sergeant major.

He returned to Los Angeles when his military service came to an end in 1954. A year later, he married Eleanor Croft Garvin. The couple were married 56 years before Malaniak's wife, who worked as manager of the Division of Cardiology, died last year. They raised three children.

As he established himself at Cedars-Sinai, Malaniak remained deeply involved in Ukrainian causes.

He served for 30 years as manager, member and president of the Los Angeles-based Ukrainian National Choir "Kobzar" and organized several major fundraising events. He also served on the board of directors for the California Associa­tion to Aid Ukraine, which provided humanitarian support for the Ukrainian people.

Malaniak helped lead collaborations between Cedars-Sinai and Ukrainian scientists and medical professionals. Following a 2006 visit of then-Ukrainian first lady Kateryna Yushchenko, he spearheaded the launch of an international healthcare fellowship program to provide training for medical professionals to improve outcomes for critically ill children in his native land.

Asked a few years ago if he had any advice for young people, Malaniak responded with his characteristic selflessness: Take advantage of educational opportunities. Stay healthy. Respect your parents and teachers. And serve your community.

He applied the same type of principles at Cedars-Sinai.

One longtime friend, Zab Mosenifar, MD, recalled Malaniak showing up at his office many years ago after Mosenifar received a promotion. Malaniak came to hug his friend.

Mosenifar, co-director of the Women's Guild Lung Institute and the Geri and Richard Brawerman Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, is among those who would run into Malaniak on the couch in the Plaza Level. The physician would relish those moments together.

"He was a very decent man, a good man, an honest man," Mosenifar recalled. "If there are pillars that would be holding up Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, he would be the pillar with zeal. That's how I remember him."

A private family service will be held. Malaniak's family asks that any donations in his honor be made through Cedars-Sinai to the General Clinical Research Center: Malaniak Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research, or to the California Association to Aid Ukraine.

Danny Malaniak with Shlomo Melmed, MD