Our esteemed colleague, H. Ralph Schumacher Jr., MD, professor emeritus and former acting chief of rheumatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and section chief of rheumatology at the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia, died at his home on July 30 from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
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Dr. Schumacher was a true giant and a fundamental force in the field of rheumatology internationally, as well as an academic and clinical fixture at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia VA Hospital for the past 50 years.
Born in Montreal in 1933, Dr. Schumacher received his B.S. at Ursinus College and his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed an internship at the Denver General Hospital, and his residency and a fellowship at the Wadsworth VA Hospital/UCLA. He interrupted his training to serve for two years as a staff physician in the U.S. Air Force in California where he was the only rheumatologist in the entire Air Force. Dr. Schumacher then completed another fellowship in rheumatology at the Robert B. Brigham Hospital and one in pathology at the Peter B. Brigham Hospital, both in Boston.
Dr. Schumacher joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1967 and steadily rose to the rank of full professor in 1979. He also held a secondary appointment as professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.
Dr. Schumacher was the quintessential physician–scientist who explored, with state-of-the art laboratory techniques, many questions that emerged from his astute clinical observations. He is best known for his seminal studies of the pathophysiology of synovium and synovial fluid, especially in relation to all types of crystal arthropathy, but also in many other forms of joint inflammation. He was one of the first scientists to use electron microscopy to study joint diseases. His work led to many major advances in both the understanding of the pathophysiology of inflammatory arthritis and the treatment of these complex disorders.
Dr. Schumacher was an exceptionally productive and prolific scientist and author, publishing more than 400 research articles, an additional 200 reviews, book chapters and editorials, and was writing and editing through this past year. He was the founding editor in chief of the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.
He will also be remembered as an inspiring, highly supportive and effective teacher, and mentor. An incredible number of trainees at all levels from many countries and his faculty colleagues were inspired by Dr. Schumacher’s infectious enthusiasm and expertise in patient care, insatiable scientific curiosity and insight, and extraordinary commitment to mentoring and teaching. Many current leading rheumatologists in the U.S. and elsewhere cite Dr. Schumacher as being highly influential in their decisions to pursue a career in rheumatology.