Dear Members of the American Autonomic Society,
It is with great sadness that we report the death of Irwin Schatz.
Irv was one of the founding members of the American Autonomic Society and its fourth President. We all had the honor of hearing him speak at our 2013 AAS meeting on the Big Island of Hawaii. His long and distinguished career as a physician and humanitarian have been extolled by many of his colleagues and friends:
— As noted by Michael Joyner:
“Dr. Schatz has a long and distinguished career as a highly respected cardiologist and professor of medicine who has served in leadership roles at John A. Bums School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Among his many roles at Hawaii, Dr. Schatz was a major leader of the Honolulu Heart Study, which has proven to be an epidemiological gold mine for investigators interested in human aging and cardiovascular disease. Among other key discoveries, this study has shown the major role that frailty plays in poor outcomes in older humans.
As impressive as Dr. Schatz’s contributions are as a physician, scientist and leader, perhaps his most high-profile accomplishment that garnered him international attention is the major role he played in initiating the furor and consequent cascade of events in The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Ala., by the U.S. Public Health Service. As you know, 399 poor -and mostly illiterate -African-American sharecroppers were studied to observe the natural progression of the disease if left untreated. The study became controversial, and eventually led to major changes in how patients are protected in clinical studies. The story of Dr. Schatz’s role itself is incredible. Dr. Schatz, a 34-year-old cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, read a paper on the study in Archives of Internal Medicine in December 1964. The research greatly troubled him and he sent a letter in June 1965 to the author of the paper, Donald H. Rockwell, M.D., at the CDC. In his letter, Dr. Schatz states: “I am utterly astounded by the fact that physicians allow patients with potentially fatal disease to remain untreated when effective therapy is available. I assume you feel that the information which is extracted from observation of this untreated group is worth their sacrifice. If this is the case, then I suggest that the United States Public Health Service and those physicians associated with it in this study need to reevaluate their moral judgments in this regard.” Dr. Schatz never got a reply. More than 25 years ago, media researchers found a note stapled to his letter in the CDC files: “This is the first letter of this type we have received. I do not plan to answer this letter. Anne R. Yobs, M.D.” The issued gradually faded from his mind until Dr. Schatz received inquiries in the early 1970s from a Wall Street Journal reporter that was looking through files at the Public Health Service in Bethesda and came across his letter. It appears that Dr. Schatz was the only physician to complain about the study. The Wall Street Journal article precipitated a storm of media attention – he received many letters from individuals both pro and con about the issue. In his humble and modest way, Dr. Schatz questions his important role in the historic study. In his words, “I don’t think that I did anything very unusual or heroic. What I did do was to express my concerns on paper and to protest. I am certain that there are countless other physicians who had the same feelings but did not write.”
— By David Robertson:
“I came to know Dr. Schatz because of his publications on autonomic disorders which greatly influenced me as a medical student because of the obvious care and concern that permeated the things he wrote. I also was very impressed by the scientific strength of the work he produced. Indeed, when I entered the field of medicine he was already established as the preeminent physician in the United States in the care of patients with orthostatic hypotension. He also was very active in the leadership of medicine at many levels, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and was a great teacher to his students and residents.”
— By Wouter Wieling
“Dr. Schatz is a true clinician scientist with the unusual combination of outstanding researcher, an inspiring medical educator and a medical leader. Above all, he has always remained a true clinician that loves to see patients and practice bedside medicine.”
Please find information and wonderful photos of Irv at the following locations:
Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.