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Gunnar B. Stickler

Born 1925
Died 2010

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German-American paediatrician, born June 13, 1925, Peterskirchen, Bavaria; died November 4, 2010, Minneapolis.

Biography of Gunnar B. Stickler

Gunnar B. Stickler attended the Wilhelmsgymnasium in Munich and from 1944 studied medicine at the universities of Vienna, Erlangen and Munich. After graduation in 1949, he spent one year in clinical pathology and one in pathologic anatomy in Munich.

In 1951 he emigrated to the USA after being accepted for an internship at the Mountainside Hospital, Montclair, New Jersey and subsequently for a fellowship in paediatrics at the Mayo Clinic. From 1953 to 1956 he was a senior cancer research scientist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. In July 1958, he was appointed to the Staff of the Mayo Clinic in paediatrics and in 1962 he was elected to the Society for Pediatric Research.

Stickler later served as the President of the Midwest Society for Pediatric Research. In 1967 he was named as an official examiner of the American Board of Pediatrics. He advanced in academic rank to Professor of Pediatrics in 1969; in November of 1969 he was named Chair of the Section of Pediatrics. The Section was later named the Department of Pediatrics under Doctor Stickler's leadership in 1974 when Mayo Clinic combined the Sections of Pediatrics and Pediatric Cardiology, when the Chair of the Section of Pediatric Cardiology James DuShane retired. Under his leadership, the Department pursued the establishment a neonatal intensive care unit and an adolescent unit at Saint Marys Hospital as well as clerkships in the new Mayo Medical School.

Doctor Stickler served on the Admissions Committee and the Medical School Coordinators Committee. Doctor Stickler also advanced primary paediatric care at Mayo Clinic as well as developed the subspecialty practices and paediatric research efforts at Mayo Clinic. He completed his term as Chair of the Department on March 31, 1980 and retired in the fall of 1989. He died unrepentantly at home from a stroke on November 4, 2010.

In 1960, a twelve year old boy was examined at a Crippled Children Clinic in Faribault, Minnesota which at the time was staffed by members of the Mayo Clinic. The boy had bony enlargements of several joints and was extremely short sighted. His mother was totally blind. Dr Stickler discovered that there were other members of the family with similar symptoms. This prompted him to study the family. With colleagues he collaborated to define the condition, the results were published in June 1965. He tentatively named the condition hereditary progressive arthro-ophthalmopathy. Since the 1980's, this condition has become to be known as Stickler syndrome. Throughout the years that followed he worked with patient-support groups such as the U.S. support group, Stickler Involved People, to help improve awareness of the syndrome and the need for early and expert intervention.

Besides the landmark paper on hereditary progressive arthro-ophthalmopathy he has authored or co-authored some 200 scientific papers. In 1965 he published a landmark paper in Pediatrics with Edward O'Connell and Robert Feldt on the importance of small head circumference and its association with mental retardation and short stature. He conducted a number of treatment trials of otitis media; this body of work eventually resulted in four publications and represented the first controlled treatment trial of otitis media in the United States. He has published extensively on paediatric nephrology, his chosen sub-speciality, and as well as a range of other paediatric problems from cyclic vomiting syndrome to parental worries.

We thank Mark Pittelkow for information submitted.

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