Dr. William J. Weiner, UM chairman of neurology

He had headed the department of neurology at the University of Maryland and its movement disorders center

  • Dr. William Weiner
Dr. William Weiner (Baltimore Sun )
January 07, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. William J. Weiner, a professor and chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who was nationally known for his work with Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders, died Dec. 29 of multiple myeloma at his Guilford home. He was 67.

"Bill was a true scholar, leader and visionary. He was academically and clinically very strong," said Dr. E. Albert Reece, vice president for medical affairs for the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Many national leaders in the fields of Parkinson's disease, sclerosis and other movement disorders have come from here because of Bill's vision," said Dr. Reece. "He built these divisions that are now world-class."

William J. Weiner was born and raised in Chicago, and the early death of his father from Huntington's disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder, influenced him to study medicine.

"He wanted to be a doctor but it was certainly an important reason for Bill's choice of studying neurology," said his wife of 12 years, Dr. Lisa M. Shulman, a neurologist who is co-director of the University of Maryland's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1966 from the University of Illinois at Urbana, he earned his medical degree three years later at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago.

Dr. Weiner completed his internship at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. He was a first-year resident in neurology from 1970 to 1971 at the University of Minnesota, and completed a second- and third-year residency in 1973 at Rush-Presbyterian.

At the time, colleagues said, Dr. Weiner was on the ground floor of the emerging field of movement disorders.

From 1973 to 1975, Dr. Weiner served in the Navy as chief of the neurology service at the Memphis Naval Hospital in Millington, Tenn.

During the early 1970s, Dr. Weiner held various positions in neurology at Rush Medical College and from 1975 to 1977 was assistant and later associate professor in neurology at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

In 1983, he joined the faculty of the University of Miami School of Medicine, where he was professor in the university's department of neurology for seven years until coming to the University of Maryland School of Medicine's neurology department.

Since 2001, Dr. Weiner had been professor and chair of the department of neurology at Maryland. His major research areas in addition to Parkinson's disease included Huntington's disease, Tourette's syndrome, dystonic tremor, tardive dyskinesia, progressive supranuclear palsy, multiple system atrophy, gait disorders and other movement disorders.

Dr. Weiner wrote or edited 25 textbooks, including "Movement Disorders — A Comprehensive Survey," which is considered a classic in the field and which he wrote with Dr. Tony Lang. He also wrote "Neurology for the Non-Neurologist," which is now in its sixth edition, with Dr. Chris Goetz in 1981.

He also was the author of more than 300 peer-reviewed articles in the field of neurology and had contributed 100 chapters to other works.

"This puts him into the upper echelon in the field of movement disorders," said Dr. Reece. "His death is a huge loss not only for the University of Maryland but also for the national discipline as a whole."

It was Dr. Weiner's style, said Dr. Reece, to quietly sit through meetings until putting his hand up and saying, "This is how I see it."

"You could always count on Bill for something that was very thoughtful," he said. "And for me as dean, he was a pleasure to work with. He was always very responsible."

Not only did Dr. Weiner's department always operate in the black, "which is very important to a dean," said Dr. Reece, but he had a high staff retention rate.

"He had a very loyal and grateful patient base who in turn made significant donations in the millions of dollars to his department," he said. "He was careful and thoughtful and they always came first."

"Bill was a very curious person and had great integrity. He wasn't afraid to stand up when he saw a threat and question dogma, and while he held strong opinions, he respected others," said Dr. Stephen G. Reich, professor of neurology at the medical school, where he is also co-director of Maryland Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center with Dr. Shulman.

"He was an excellent researcher, clinician, teacher and role model. Bill was a very charismatic person but in a very quiet way," said Dr. Reich, who added that his colleague was "well-liked by not only his patients but students and staff as well."

In his eulogy, Dr. Reich said that "he didn't sweat the small stuff. Yet he did sweat big stuff and was highly intolerant of wishy-washy logic, injustice and threats to academic integrity."

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