In memoriam Dieter Schmidt – Epilepsy & Behavior

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It is with great sadness that we announce that Dieter Schmidt, Emeritus Professor of Neurology, Free University of Berlin, Germany , and, since his retirement, Head of an Epilepsy Research Group in Berlin, passed away quietly on Sunday, September 2019 in Berlin at the age of 72. Dr. Schmidt was an internationally renowned clinical epileptologist with contributions in numerous areas of clinical epilepsy over a period of almost 50 years. He hold s the Ambassador for Epilepsy award of the International League Against Epilepsy ( ILAE ) as a recognition of outstanding international contributions to activities advancing the cause of epilepsy.

Dr. Schmidt was born in Bad Schwalbach, Germany , in 1947. He was trained in medicine in Heidelberg and subsequently trained in neurology in the group of Dieter Janz at the Neurology Department of the Heidelberg University. In 1973, he moved together with Janz to West Berlin, where he stayed until 1985 in the Neurology Department of the Free University, which was chaired by Dieter Janz. During this period , he spent a while in the U. S., where, among other activities, he worked in 1975 as a guest scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and was trained both by Kiffin Penry in clinical epileptology and Harvey Kupferberg in preclinical strategies used by the new Anticonvulsant Screening Project (ASP), which started in the same year. During his time in the U. S., he successfully passed the medical board exam.

In 1985 , Dr. Schmidt moved to Munich where he became professor in the group of Thomas Brandt, who was the Chair of the Neurology Department of the Ludwig Maximilans University. In 1989, he became the successor of Dieter Janz in Berlin and took over the chair of the Clinic of Neurology of the Free University. Unfortunately, he became severely sick and had to retire in 1992 to become later the Head of an Epilepsy Research Group in Berlin, which organized several important clinical studies.

In 1983 , he received the Ambassador for Epilepsy award of the ILAE and , in 1984 , the Hauptmann Award of the Epilepsy Board of Trustees (Bonn, Germany ). Dr. Schmidt has over 200 peer-reviewed publications and was the editor or coeditor of several volumes on epilepsy, including a case-based book that received an award from the British Medical Association in 2019 (with Bill Tatum and Steve Schachter). In 1987, he became Founding and Managing Editor of Epilepsy Research, which he remained for 20 years. Later, he was Founding Associate Editor of Epilepsy & Behavior Case Reports and Founding and Managing Editor of Epilepsia Open. Dieter Schmidt was an excellent speaker and invited to >100 lectures throughout the world. He also acted as a scientific organizer of several workshops and symposia on epilepsy research, including the workshop series “New Horizons in the Development of Antiepileptic Drugs” (together with W. Löscher), which was first held in Philadelphia in 2002.

Although Dr. Schmidt covered a number of areas of clinical epilepsy research over the years, including clinical pharmacology of anti seizure drugs, assessment of the adverse drug effects, and the efficacy of drug therapy and of surgical treatment, his studies of the natural history of treated epilepsy in population-based studies (together with Matti Sillanpää) are among his most important contributions, which he published in an impressive series of Brain papers. He showed that, contrary to well-publicized results of retrospective studies in hospital-based series, complex patterns of remission and relapse can be observed in population-based studies of patients followed for several decades since the onset of epilepsy in childhood. Dr. Schmidt demonstrated that patients switch in and out of remission, and the factors that are associated with remission and relapse can be predicted — to a degree — early in the treatment by observing seizure-clustering . The effect of different strategies of drug treatment — single drug treatment versus switching to another monotherapy or adding another drug — have been explored by Dr. Schmidt in early publications that have withstood the test of time.

In addition to his important scientific contributions, which included several highly cited reviews, Dr. Schmidt was an excellent teacher and provided training and guidance for several fellows. For many colleagues throughout the world, he was a critical advisor and friend. All who knew him personally will miss him. Our thoughts are with his wife Ingeborg.


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