Intended for healthcare professionals


Rudolf Schoenhuber

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: (Published 21 March 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p680
  1. Grazia Di Donato,
  2. Luigi Tonelli,
  3. Paolo Bortolotti,
  4. Paolo Nichelli,
  5. Antonio Landi

Rudolf Schoenhuber (“Rudi”) died suddenly, prompting immense feelings of loneliness in all the people who had known him: colleagues, friends, students, patients, and family members.

He was eclectic, lively, gifted with a formidable memory, cultured, always up to date, not only in his specialty; his innate curiosity brought him to experiment among the first many new techniques. In the early 1980s he started to use botulin toxin to treat blepharospasm and spasmodic torticollis. He was endowed with empathy and an ethical vision of medicine that characterised his entire professional life.

He enrolled at the State University of Milan, graduating in medicine and surgery, and specialising in neurology in 1977.

At the Karolinska Institute of the University of Solna (Stockholm), Sweden, he began to be interested in neurophysiology. He cultivated this interest for many years by passing on his knowledge to the many neurology, orthopaedics, neurosurgery, and neurophysiology students.

In 1975 he moved to Modena to the neurological clinic directed by Ennio De Renzi, starting his career as a hospital assistant until he became an associate professor in 1988. In this role he distinguished himself both in teaching and in research by collaborating in many projects with scientist in foreign centres in Austria, Sweden, the UK, and the USA.

In 1991 he returned to Bolzano as head of neurology at the Central Hospital of the South Tyrolean health authority, a role he would hold until his retirement in 2014.

From 1995 to 1999 he attended the Open University Business School (UK), where he obtained a masters degree in business administration

He published many scientific papers in neurology, clinical neurophysiology, neuropsychology, neurotoxicology, and occupational neurophysiology, as well as studies on evidence based medicine and efficiency in healthcare, patient classification systems, and outcome measurement.

A scholar of neurophysiology, he was one of the leading Italian experts in this area, with studies and research studies ranging from the pathophysiology of the peripheral nervous system to those of cortical functions.

In his work he was always attentive to the quality of life and wellbeing of the patient, considering patients not as “pathology carriers” but as persons to take care of.

He was part of the board of the slow medicine movement, with the aim of practising “good, respectful, and fair medicine.” He was also part of the Italian Cochrane Centre, contributing to initiatives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of diagnostic investigations and the treatment of neurological diseases.

His empathy, favoured by his great culture and knowledge of several languages (he spoke fluent Italian, German, and English but also knew Portuguese, Swedish, French, Spanish, and even Esperanto), led him to travel a lot and meet many people.

He was also, especially at a younger age, a sportsman and went skiing and sailing.

Modest as only great people can be, he never made his knowledge weigh. He was sometimes critical, but always in a constructive way, so improving the esteem and affection of his students and patients.

For this he left a great sadness, many memories, but also many stimuli in all those who knew him.

His many friends said farewell to Rudi with sadness, gratefulness, and love.

Good bye, Rudi. Thank you.

Neurologist (b 1948; q Milan, Italy, 1977), died from pancreatic cancer on 1 November 2022

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