In memoriam: Dr. Heinz Felix Eichenwald

Dr. Heinz Felix Eichenwald, an internationally renowned expert on children’s infectious diseases, died Sept. 8 at the age of 85.

The professor emeritus and former chairman of pediatrics served on the faculty and as chief of staff at Children’s Medical Center and chief of pediatrics at Parkland Memorial Hospital from 1964 to 1982. He is credited with building UT Southwestern’s pediatrics department and helping set up pediatrics programs around the world.

Dr. Heinz Felix Eichenwald

“He was an excellent doctor, an excellent researcher and one of the giants in the field of pediatric diseases,” said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, President of Southwestern Medical Foundation and former president of UT Southwestern.

Dr. Eichenwald graduated magna cum laude with a degree in biomedical sciences from Harvard University and received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1950. After completing his pediatric training at Cornell’s New York Hospital, he continued to serve on the faculty there until coming to UT Southwestern in 1964.

He stepped down from the chairmanship in 1982, but remained on the faculty to teach medical students and postdoctoral fellows. He retired in 2006 as professor emeritus.

Dr. Charles Ginsburg, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Administration and Professor of Pediatrics, called Dr. Eichenwald one of the country’s foremost educators of pediatrics who epitomized the term “medical educator.”

“Heinz had a mesmerizing personality, an encyclopedic mind and a Grimm-like ability to regale medical students and postgraduate trainees with stories about patients he had encountered during his training and his frequent international excursions,” said Dr. Ginsburg, also a former chairman of pediatrics.

He added that Dr. Eichenwald vividly described “even the most mundane afflictions of infancy and childhood in a wrap of intrigue and mystery,” a talent that endeared him to medical students and physicians.

While growing UT Southwestern’s pediatrics department from a mere half-dozen doctors at the time he joined, Dr. Eichenwald also chaired panels for the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, served as a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) and edited pediatric publications, including the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. He helped set up pediatric health-care teams to staff clinics during the Vietnam War and later traveled throughout Central and South America as a senior consultant for the WHO.

Dr. Eichenwald received the Alexander von Humboldt Prize for Research in Natural Sciences awarded by West Germany in 1979 and the Weinstein-Goldenson Award for Medical Research from the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation in 1980, both for his work in pediatric infectious diseases.

Born on March 3, 1926, in Berlin, he spent his primary school years in Switzerland and moved to New York in the late 1930s. He is survived by his wife, Linda Eichenwald, of Dallas; sons, author and former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, of Dallas, and Dr. Eric Eichenwald, of Houston; daughter, Kathie Duncan, of Englewood, Colo.; stepson, Michael Moragne, of Los Angeles; and seven grandchildren.

Donations in his memory may be made to The Heinz Eichenwald Fund for Pediatrics, Southwestern Medical Foundation, 3963 Maple Ave., Suite 100, Dallas, TX 75219.

Debbie Bolles