Researcher, teacher and patient advocate Prof. Hermann Heimpel dies at the age of 84 years

Professor Heimpel collaborated with ENERCA for the last 10 years

October 21, 2014

Herman Heimpel

Professor Hermann Heimpel decisively shaped the University Hospital of Ulm - in research, teaching and administration. On October 7th, the former Medical Director of the Department of Internal Medicine III (1969-1996) and former Vice-Rector of Ulm University died at the age of 84 years. "We learned with great sadness of the death of Professor Heimpel. As a doctor, a highly respected researcher and an academic teacher, he was closely connected to the University Medical Center well beyond retirement. "He was not only greatly appreciated among his colleagues for his scientific reputation and human qualities," says University President Professor Karl Joachim Ebeling. Just last May the internationally renowned hematologist and oncologist was honored by the Prime Minister of the State of Baden Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann with the State Order of Merit – in particular for his contribution for improved care for cancer patients in Baden-Württemberg, for establishing the Ulm Cancer Center and the State Advisory Council for Oncology. It must be mentioned that during the last ten years he has been deeply involved in the European Network for Congenital and Rare Anaemias (ENERCA) where he participated as outstanding partner and dedicated leader for the creation of the European CDA Registry. 

"Professor Heimpel was an extraordinary personality. He shaped hematology and oncology in Germany in the past decades like hardly anybody else. He was not only an exceptional doctor, curious scientist, dedicated teacher and academic visionary, but he was an especially wonderful person. He was all this until his last days for all who knew him, for the employees of our hospital, for his former and present students. We will all miss him very much," says Professor Hartmut Döhner, Medical Director of the Department of Internal Medicine III and successor of Hermann Heimpel.

Professor Hermann Heimpel studied medicine in Göttingen, Heidelberg, Innsbruck and Freiburg. He completed his internal medicine training in Freiburg under Professor Ludwig Heilmeyer, later founding rector of Ulm University. In 1969, Prof. Heimpel followed Prof. Heilmeyer to the young Ulm University, where he became the first Professor and Medical Director of the Department of Internal Medicine III. As a scientist Heimpel devoted himself to blood diseases such as leukemia and rare forms of anemia - panmyelopathy and aplastic anemia. Together with Dr. Klaus Schwarz of the Institute for Transfusion Medicine and Immunogenetics, he discovered, for example, one of the genes that is altered in congenital dyserythropoietic anemia (CDA). In addition, Heimpel contributed to better diagnosis and treatment of agranulocytosis, characterized by failure states of hematopoiesis, as well as certain leukemias. Further noteworthy: together with Professors Theodor Fliedner and Enno Kleihauer he established bone marrow transplantation in Ulm. 

The deceased was a member of national and international bodies such as President of the German Society of Hematology (1990-1996) and editor of the medical journal "Blut", to name a few. In short, the performance of his department paved the way for the DFG research group experimental and clinical leukemia research and the Collaborative Research Centers "cell system physiology" (112) and "lympho-hematopoiesis" (322).

Apart from research, patient orientation was particularly important to Professor Heimpel. At the age of 80, he became the patient ombudsman at the University Hospital and always had an open ear for the worries and concerns of the patient, whom he represented vis-à-vis doctors and the hospital administration. This ethical competence was something that the hematologist, who aided in setting up the Medical Faculty in Ulm as well as founder and chairman of the Teaching Commission in medicine, taught his students. He held, for example, a lecture entitled "clinic for pre-clinicians" with patient presentations and was a model for his handlings with seriously ill patients. Hermann Heimpel, who was Dean of Medicine from 1970 to 1982, held lectures for aspiring doctors until an advanced age.

His commitment to the University's self-government was also remarkable: From 1983 to 1985 Hermann Heimpel was Dean of the Medical Faculty and a member of the Senate, which brought the Ulm City of Science on its way. As Vice-Rector (1989-1991) he participated in the design of the University's expansion. In this context, Heimpel was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit in 1997 - one of his many awards.

Professor Hermann Heimpel, who originally wanted to become a country doctor, was, until recently, seen in the hospital almost daily. The University Hospital of Ulm grieves for a physician, scientist and patient friend, of which there is no equal.

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