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NEWS

For immediate useOct. 16, 1997 -- No. 757

Dr. Carl W. Gottschalk, top kidney researcher, dead at 75

CHAPEL HILL -- Dr. Carl W. Gottschalk, one of the world's foremost kidney researchers and Distinguished Research professor of medicine and physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, died Wednesday (Oct. 15). A Chapel Hill resident, he was 75.

Gottschalk's career spanned decades and was highlighted by membership to such prominent scientific organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1970, the Institute of Medicine in 1973 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1975.

“Dr. Gottschalk has been an internationally known expert for several decades and a key figure in the development of the School of Medicine, where he was a role model for faculty members and a very distinguished scientist,” said Dr. H. Garland Hershey Jr., former vice chancellor for health affairs at UNC-CH. “He approached his work with the enthusiasm of a kid and remained deeply interested in all aspects of learning and education -- a wonderful person with that rare combination of astute scientific knowledge and remarkable humanism. He will be greatly missed.”

A native of Salem, Va., Gottschalk showed a natural aptitude for science from an early age. Once as a youth, when he spotted a butterfly he couldn't identify, he netted it and sent it to the Smithsonian Institute. The butterfly, it turned out, was a new species and subsequently was named after him: Strymon cecrops Gottschalki.

Gottschalk received his bachelor's degree from Roanoke College and his medical degree from the University of Virginia, where he began pursuing a lifelong interest in the kidney's ability to produce and control body fluids.

His research career at the UNC-CH School of Medicine began in 1952 with a small lab, a $500 research grant and no technical assistance. He believed that micropuncture techniques, if properly developed, could reveal much about how the kidney worked.

Other researchers in the field told Gottschalk that he was wasting his time, but he refused to be discouraged and went on to perfect micropuncture techniques. His contributions to the field of nephrology -- the study of kidneys and the diagnosis and treatment kidney disease -- spilled over into other fields and the American Heart Association named him a career investigator, assuring him lifetime financial support for his work.

“Dr. Gottschalk was one of the most outstanding scientists ever to serve on the university faculty, an imminent scientist of world renown,” said Dr. William Blythe, Marion Covington professor of medicine at UNC-CH and a fellow nephrologist. “Yet in contrast to some highly acclaimed, internationally known scientists, Dr. Gottschalk felt an extreme loyalty to this university and as a consequence, was one of the university's best citizens. Because of his interest and leadership within the university community, he not only was highly respected by his colleagues, but also well-loved.”

In 1978, Gottschalk received the O. Max Gardner Award, the only statewide honor given by the UNC Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 16-campus university system. The award is given to a faculty member who made the greatest contribution to mankind during the school year.

“Despite the national and international recognition that has come to him, Dr. Gottschalk's modesty is legendary,” the citation read.

A prolific lecturer and writer and editor of numerous scientific articles, journals and books, Gottschalk influenced a generation of physicians and researchers in the classroom. He co-edited the third edition of Strauss and Welt's “Diseases of the Kidney,” a standard textbook in the field of nephrology, and ultimately took the text through six editions. In 1969, he received the Medical Basic Science Teaching Award, given annually by UNC-CH medical students.

Dr. Stuart Bondurant, dean emeritus of the UNC-CH School of Medicine, credited Gottschalk for shaping federal policy; because of Gottchalk's influence, Medicare now covers dialysis for patients suffering from end-stage renal failure.

“Our country offers dialysis to more people than any other country in the world, and thousands of people are alive because of it,” Bondurant said. “Few people have made as large a contribution to such a broad range of scientific and social concerns as Carl Gottschalk. His contributions to our understanding of the workings of the kidney are both fundamental and of great practical value to patients every day. “

In 1969, the university named him Kenan Professor of medicine and physiology, a title he retained until his retirement in 1992. From that time on, he served as Distinguished Research professor of medicine and physiology. In his spare time, he enjoyed studying medical history and maintained an extensive private collection of rare medical books.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Susan K. Fellner of Chapel Hill; and three children, Carl Gottschalk of New Haven, Conn., Walter Gottschalk of Carrboro and Dr. Karen Strehlow of Boston.

The family will receive friends at the home from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 18). Burial will take place in Salem, Va. Officials at the UNC-CH School of Medicine plan a memorial service at a later date.

People wishing to make memorial contributions in Gottschalk's honor may send them to the UNC-CH Health Sciences Library, Campus Box 7585, UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27599-7585.

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