Einstein Recalls a Leading Kidney Physician-Scientist with Roots at the College of Medicine
Detlef Schlondorff, M.D., passed away at home on October 16, 2019, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 77.
Dr. Schlondorff had a tremendous impact at Einstein and Montefiore, as well as upon the specialty of nephrology. He arrived in the Bronx in the 1970s to complete his internal medicine residency and nephology fellowship training at Montefiore/Einstein. In 1977, he became a member of our faculty, serving our institution until 1993; during his last five years at Montefiore/Einstein, he served as chief of nephrology.
A prolific renal investigator for over five decades, he published more than 300 peer-reviewed original and review articles, many of which appeared in high-impact journals; was author of numerous book chapters; and edited two books on kidney disease. Most remarkably, his research has been cited more than 18,000 times.
His first research publications focused on elucidating novel mechanisms of compensatory renal hypertrophy in animal models. His research then shifted in the early 1980s toward using in vivo models and classical in vitro models, including toad bladders, to determine the roles of cyclic nucleotides and eicosanoids in regulating glomerular filtration and water and electrolyte homeostasis.
A Physician’s Sensibility
Though his funded research focused upon basic science, he also was a consummate clinician who readily sought to translate his research to the bedside. In 1981, he published one of the first case series of NSAID-induced AKI with hyperkalemia in JAMA.
During the later 1980s, Dr. Schlondorff’s research focus shifted again, this time toward glomerular physiology. These studies included seminal work on the role of prostaglandins in mesangial cell function and glomerular filtration, including findings that helped elucidate the role of vasoregulatory hormones in the hyperfiltration of diabetes. In addition, his lab began intensive studies on the role of immune responses in the pathophysiology of kidney disease.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, his group at Einstein published numerous landmark papers in leading journals including the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the Journal of Immunology demonstrating the role of cytokines and innate immunity in the generation and progression of renal diseases.
“One of Detlef’s defining traits was his outstanding commitment to teaching and mentoring his trainees, many of whom hold or have held important leadership roles in programs in New York and around the world,” noted Michael Ross, M.D., a colleague at Montefiore who was among those to benefit from his mentoring. Dr. Schlondorff trained and mentored more than 50 fellows from around the globe, including some of the current world leaders in academic nephrology.
He left Einstein in 1993 to return to Germany where he was professor and chair of medicine at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich until 2007. During that time, he continued to publish outstanding papers in leading journals, delineating immune mechanisms of renal injury. He also had the foresight to support the establishment of the European Renal Biopsy cDNA Bank (ERCB), which was established as a multicenter study for disease specific mRNA expression analysis in human kidney biopsies. This outstanding collaborative resource has contributed immensely to our understanding of dysregulated gene expression in kidney disease.
In 2007, Dr. Schlondorff returned to New York, to join the Mount Sinai’s division of nephrology. He continued with his research until 2012, when he decided to focus on his editorial duties at Kidney International, where he was editor-in-chief until 2017.
Renowned as a warm, engaging, and cultured academic hundreds of friends and colleagues worldwide held Dr. Schlondorff in esteem, and he will be missed greatly.
Editor's Note: If you would like to leave a remembrance of Dr. Schlondorff, please visit our In Memoriam page.
Posted on: Friday, December 13, 2019