Walter L. Herrmann, MD

Walter L. Herrmann, MD

Walter L. Herrmann, MD (August 16, 2012)

Professor Walter Herrmann, former Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Maternity of Geneva, died on August 16, 2012 in his 90th year.

Dr. Herrmann was born on March 28, 1923 in Berlin. His family immigrated to Switzerland in 1933. He received a Bachelor in Medical Science from the University of Geneva in 1946 and an M.D. from that institution in 1949. He carried out a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Maternity Hospital in St. Gall, Switzerland and served as a Chief Resident at the Yale University Grace-New Haven Hospital in 1954-1955. He also served as a visiting fellow in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Boston Lying-in and Columbia Presbyterian Hospitals. He garnered an American Cancer Society fellowship at Yale in 1955-56 and stayed on the faculty rising to the rank of Associate Professor in 1961. During this time he developed an expertise in gynecological endocrinology and infertility.

From 1961 till 1968 he served as Professor and Head of the Division of Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Ob/Gyn at the University of Washington, School of Medicine, in Seattle. He then served as the third Chair of that department from 1968 until 1976. He had a very productive academic career with 68 peer reviewed publications most in high impact journals with a focus on basic and translational reproductive endocrinology and steroid biochemistry. He was the senior author on several truly landmark publications. One published in Nature in 1969 described the isolation of estradiol receptors in the bovine hypothalamus and pituitary in 1969. Another published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1975 demonstrated the association between exogenous estrogen therapy and an increased risk of endometrial carcinoma.

Professor Herrmann was the recipient of many awards for teaching and research including the Purdue Frederick Award of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Lynch Memorial Award from the Pacific Coast Ob/Gyn Society. In addition to membership in this organization, he was a member of the Endocrine Society, ACOG, the American Gynecological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and multiple Swiss and other European societies. Professor Herrmann was a past President of the Society for Gynecological Investigation, an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a regular member of the NIH Human Embryology and Development study section. He was a frequent visiting professor in Ob/Gyn departments in the U.S. and abroad and he served on the editorial board of multiple journals.

In 1976 he returned to Switzerland as chair of the Department of Ob/Gyn at his alma mater, the University of Geneva. He continued in this post until 1988 and also directed their School of Midwifery. His colleagues recall that immediately upon his arrival, he began to reorganise and modernise the medical and scientific approach to obstetrical care. He served as a mentor to many notable Swiss reproductive scientists including Professor Paul Bischof. He was widely admired for his scientific prowess as well as his warm-hearted humor.

After his retirement, he lived in Grindelwald with his wife, Nicole. He was nature enthusiast and an artist who painted and sculpted. During the final year of his life he approached his illness with remarkable courage enduring aggressive treatments with humour, lucidity and humanity. He died in his chalet facing the mountains he loved so much. He is survived by Nicole, as well as children and grandchildren residing in the U.S.

Submitted by Charles J. Lockwood, MD
My thanks to Ms. Nicole Herrmann for providing invaluable details of Professor Herrmann’s life and career.

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