Vascular Pioneer Edward B. Diethrich, MD, 1935–2017
February 28, 2017—Edward B. Diethrich, MD, a pioneer in noninvasive cardiovascular disease diagnosis and innovative surgical and minimally invasive treatments, succumbed to complications of a brain tumor on February 23 at the age of 81. Dr. Diethrich was an internationally esteemed cardiovascular surgeon, inventor, and philanthropist. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Gloria, two children, and eight grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be planned in the near future. Details will be posted at drteddiethrich.com.
As recounted in his obituary, in 1971, Dr. Diethrich founded the Arizona Heart Institute (AHI) in Phoenix, Arizona, as the nation's first freestanding outpatient clinic devoted solely to the prevention, detection, and treatment of heart and blood vessel diseases. As Medical Director and Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery for AHI and Founder of the institute's nonprofit research organization, Arizona Heart Foundation, Dr. Diethrich led these organizations to international prominence. He also served as Medical Director and Chief of Cardiovascular and Endovascular Surgery at the Arizona Heart Hospital.
At AHI, Dr. Diethrich trained more than a thousand surgeons and other specialists in cardiovascular surgery and endovascular techniques. He traveled around the globe to demonstrate his techniques and instruct local physicians. He wrote more than 400 scientific papers, several textbooks, and numerous lay publications. He also produced hundreds of educational videos and films.
Dr. Diethrich was the founder and Chairman of the Board of the International Society of Endovascular Specialists (ISES/ISEVS) and the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Endovascular Therapy, and he was among the first physicians to join the Editorial Advisory Board of Endovascular Today after it was founded in 2002.
He also chaired the ISES/iCON symposium in Arizona for many years. The meeting attracted thoughtleaders from around the world and emphasized the heights of modern technology, both in its content and its presentation, but it also included a night reserved for bringing in members of the local Phoenix/Scottsdale community for conversations with health care practitioners about vascular disease.
According to his obituary, despite state-of-the-art radiation protection, his decades of near-daily exposure to minute amounts of radiation took their toll on his health, leading to his 4-year battle with glioma, a particularly lethal form of brain tumor. Working in conjunction with the Organization for Occupational Radiation Safety in Interventional Fluoroscopy, Dr. Diethrich was the model for a documentary on the ill effects that radiation can have on the human body.
Dr. Diethrich recently completed his memoirs, SLED: The Serendipitous Life of Edward Diethrich.
The staff of Endovascular Today is eternally grateful for Dr. Diethrich's contributions to the field, as well as his early guidance and hospitality to the publication.
“Ted Diethrich was a true superstar and leader in our specialty,” recalled Frank J. Veith, MD, vascular surgeon from NYU Langone Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and Chairman of the VEITHsymposium. "He was an outstanding innovator, a leading educator, a great organizer, and an all-around brilliant surgeon. Ted was always ahead of his time and creative beyond words. In addition to being a genuinely nice guy, he was one of the most uniquely talented individuals on this earth. He would have been supremely successful in any field he chose, and the field of vascular and endovascular surgery was lucky to have him in its midst. He was and is a friend and a giant who will be sorely missed.”
“Ted’s passing is an enormous loss,” said interventional radiologist Barry T. Katzen, MD, Founder and Medical Director of Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute and Program Director for ISET and CIO. “On a personal and professional level, we had a great relationship over the past 20 years, with mutual appreciation for each other’s efforts to advance the field. Very early in his career, Ted became interested in reducing the invasive nature of surgery and in the developments we were making in endovascular therapy. We got to know each other well during several visits he made to Miami to observe what we were doing in the early years of the Institute, as well as one of our live case meetings, and he became very engaged in this format.
"We didn’t always agree on everything—politically or philosophically—but I always appreciated the role Ted played in powering the field of surgery into the endovascular era," continued Dr. Katzen. "And that was no small task—he endured a lot of criticism, not just from interventional radiology and cardiology, but from his surgical colleagues as well. Those who play a significant role in advancing a field forward always have to suffer some slings and arrows.”
Vascular surgeon David H. Deaton, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, described Dr. Diethrich as "a pioneer in every sense of the word."
“He didn’t see limits to what he could contribute,” said Dr. Deaton. “Trained as a cardiac surgeon, he excelled in heart procedures while also pioneering new techniques, therapies, and devices throughout the cardiovascular system, be it aneurysmal, cerebrovascular, or lower extremity occlusive disease. He founded new forums for discussion in the realms of professional societies, meetings, and journals and was a tireless traveler, spreading his enthusiasm and energy for innovation and exploration across the world."
“He is irreplaceable. He will be missed.”