A Celebration of Dr. Herman Louis Kretschmer’s Legacy and Accomplishments

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By: Ramune K. Kubilius, Galter Library interim Special Collections Librarian

On November 30, 2015, the Galter Health Sciences Library had the honor of hosting a visit by members of the extended family of alumnus and donor, Dr. Herman Louis Kretschmer (1879-1951). Visitors to the library’s Special Collections included two nieces of Dr. Kretschmer, Lucinda Kretschmer Wellwood and Marie Kretschmer Gierke (pictured at left), along with members of the extended family, who travelled to downtown Chicago from the suburbs of Chicago, as well as Wisconsin and Virginia.

The visit resulted from family members’ genealogical research, which led them to a Galter Library website article about a 2014 exhibit of Dr. Kretschmer’s student notebooks that had been donated to the library. They contacted Galter Library, expressing an interest in arranging a visit to view items in that exhibit as well as his papers and books. When he died in 1951, Dr. Kretschmer made a generous provision in his will to establish the “Lucy and Edwin Kretschmer Fund of Northwestern University Medical School for special studies and investigations in the field of urology.” The residency training program in urology was developed by the Kretschmer Urological Research Laboratories. At that time, the medical school’s library (then called Archibald Church Medical Library) became steward to many of his personal items including papers, notebooks, and his rare book collection in urology. Those items became a part of the Galter Health Sciences Library’s Special Collections, and selections from that donation and the 2014 exhibit were made available for viewing by relatives of Dr. Kretschmer on November 30th. Also on display for the visit was a card catalog that comprised the processed inventory of books and other items donated. As a small plaque from that time illustrated, this made up the “Herman L. Kretchmer Collection.” Various photographs of the pharmacy and medical schools at the time Dr. Kretschmer graduated (1900 and 1904 respectively), volumes of Northwestern University School of Pharmacy and Medical School Announcements (of graduation), and bound volumes of Dr. Kretschmer’s journal article reprints were among the other items that rounded out the display set up in the Special Collections Reading Room.

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Publication impact

Some charts and visualization printouts provided for display in the library by Impact and Evaluation Librarian Karen Gutzman, were of particular interest to Kretschmer family members. Dr. Kretschmer died in 1951, having authored about 300 documents. His work continues to be relevant and is cited to this day: once in 2015, three times in 2013. Analysis of 133 documents authored by Dr. Kretschmer and indexed in Web of Science, provided interesting revelations. These works (128 scientific articles, 2 letters, 2 review articles, and 1 editorial comment) were published in major medical journals, and have been cited over 845 times in the scientific literature by authors from 35 countries, who wrote papers in 7 languages.

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Dr. Kretschmer's legacy

One Kretschmer family member had also contacted the Urology Department, and Urology residents Drs. Joceline Liu, Richard Matulewicz, and Daniel Oberlin, met with the family, accompanying them to the Urology Department’s conference room on the 16th floor of the Tarry Building. There, they examined Dr. Kretschmer’s photograph on prominent display, along with a notebook of miscellaneous information about him. Members of the Urology Department staff also joined the visiting group and acquainted them with the urology training program at Northwestern University while family members shared stories about Dr. Kretschmer.

The visit on November 30th provided Galter Library with an opportunity to showcase various valued and interesting items from its Special Collections vault, donated many years ago. For members of the Kretschmer family, the visit provided an opportunity for the nieces who had known him personally, as well as extended family members who had not had that honor, to become familiar with the university from which Dr. Kretschmer graduated, and to which he showed such loyalty. To the Galter Library staff, Urology residents, and Urology Department staff, the visit provided an opportunity to meet with members of a generous donor’s family and to find out more about him from his family members. Though the specialty of urology today differs from Dr. Kretschmer’s era, thanks to his foresight and generosity, current generations of urologists in training continue to build the body of knowledge and research in his and the residents' chosen specialty. Finally, the visit provided all with an opportunity to highlight and appreciate a productive physician-clinician-researcher-author's accomplishments and legacy through the impact of his publications and their relevance to the present day. 

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Updated: December 15th, 2015 10:21