After suffering from a long illness, Martin (“Marty”) Helrich, M.D passed away on June 2, 2013 at the age of 91 in his home, with his wife Ina by his side. The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the specialty of anesthesiology have lost a friend, mentor, teacher, leader and champion of academic anesthesiology.
Born in New York, Marty grew up in Atlantic City before graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Dickinson College and then the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. After completing his internship at Atlantic City Hospital, Dr. Helrich began his career in anesthesiology as a resident at New York University and the Bellevue Medical Center. Under the tutelage of pioneers E.A. Rovenstine and E.M. Papper, Dr. Helrich received outstanding training in clinical care, research and teaching. Following his residency, Dr. Helrich served for two years in the U.S. Army as Chief of Anesthesiology at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Upon honorable discharge as a captain, Dr. Helrich moved his family to Philadelphia, where he served as a research fellow sponsored by the National Heart Institute and later joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1956, anesthesiology wasformally recognized as an indepen-dent department in the University of Maryland. Dr. Helrich was recruited to Baltimore and named professor and chair of the nascent department. Marty Helrich displayed the professional and personal qualities that he imbued in all those he touched – “integrity, patience and wisdom.” In 1986, Dr. Helrich was appointed Professor Emeritus of Anesthesiology upon his retirement, after serving for 30 years as Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Today, the residents would call him “old school,” said Andy Malinow, M.D., Professor of Anesthesiology and Vice-Chair of the department at Maryland. “I finished my residency late in Dr. Helrich’s tenure and was later recruited by him, coming back to Maryland as a faculty member. Dr. Helrich was kind but demanding of his residents. He would question his residents’ knowledge of clinical anesthesiology as well as all related aspects of general clinical medicine and the basic sciences. Marty took the time to learn about his residents and was there for any of us who had a problem, either at the hospital or at home. He was a father figure to many of us.”
To his faculty physicians, Dr. Helrich emphasized the importance of delivering clinical care while teaching residents and students and engaging in state-of-the-art experimental investigation. He published more than 85 peer-reviewed manuscripts while strengthening and positioning the department for future growth. His research investigations resulted in productive lines of active inquiry even to this time. He recruited investigators and supported clinical and basic research. In an effort headlined by his successor, the late M. Jane Matjasko M.D., a professorship in his name was established supporting the chair of anesthesiology in the school of medicine.
Peter Rock M.D, M.B.A. is the current Helrich Professor and Chair. “I hadn’t met Marty before I came to Maryland, although of course I knew who he was and his importance to the specialty of anesthesiology. I got to know him over the years and appreciated his wisdom, wit, and phenomenal memory of people and events. He was still loyal to the University of Maryland School of Medicine and very proud of the department he had created. The department’s remarkable growth in the 30 years since Dr. Helrich retired has only been possible because of the foundation he built. I am humbled to serve as the chair of the department he founded and consider myself exceptionally fortunate to follow in his footsteps. It is an honor and privilege to be the Dr. Martin Helrich Professor of Anesthesiology. The department, the school and our specialty have lost a giant in the field.”
During his career, Dr. Helrich served as a Director, Secretary and President of the American Board of Anesthesiology, a Director of ASA, a Governor of the American College of Anesthesiologists and President of the Maryland-D.C. Society of Anesthesiologists. In his retirement, Dr. Helrich stayed active on the national scene. He was very proud to be named the first Executive Director of the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research. In 1995, Dr. Helrich was honored by ASA, which bestowed upon him its Distinguished Service Award.
Dr. Helrich is survived by his wife Ina, his daughters Lisa (Washington, D.C.) and Karen (San Diego), and two granddaughters. A funeral service was held on Wednesday, June 5 in Baltimore.
Peter Rock, M.D., M.B.A., FCCM is Martin Helrich Professor and Chair, and Professor of Anesthesiology, Medicine and Surgery, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.