Eberhard Ritz, MD
October 29, 2023
Eberhard Ritz, MD, professor emeritus of the Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg, Germany has passed away on October 29, 2023. The Nephrology community has lost one of its truly remarkable figures with more than 1500 publications, numerous memberships in honor societies and a John Peters Award Winner of the American Society of Nephrology.
Eberhard Ritz was born in Heidelberg during difficult times in 1938 right at the brink of World War II. He was soon to be described by others as a talented young man who loved classical music and was himself playing the piano. During the war, he went to Bavaria with his mother and his sister before studying Medicine in Heidelberg, Montpellier and Munich. After graduating, he located to Zurich and became an internist under the direction of Prof. Dr. Siegenthaler, a man he cited often, and he admired. He started to find his passion for the
biochemical definition of atherosclerosis from both, research and clinical perspective. After a basic research training in mucopolysaccharide metabolism in the aorta in St. Louis, USA, he returned to Heidelberg. In 1967 he joined his alma mater at Ruprecht Karls University of Heidelberg where he practiced medicine, a place he would stay for the rest of what would be an illustrious career. He was soon known to be a stubborn young doctor with a strong opinion who had little to no filter and was questioning the medical and scientific views of others. It was told that it has been a part of a "punishment" imposed on him to attend the new program for kidney disease (hemodialysis). But quite to the expectations of others and Instead of running away from it, he grew a tremendous interest in and dedication for this young discipline and used it as
a framework to become fascinated on all aspects of Nephrology. A great career was set into motion.
Eberhard Ritz soon earned the recognition of being a quarterback of and for Nephrology. He focused on cardio-vascular impairments in chronic kidney diseases (CKD) as well as mineral and bone metabolism and all aspects of diabetic nephropathy. In the early 1990s, he pointed to the then new concept of nephron endowment as a genetic-developmental underpinning of CKD.
Eberhard Ritz had many talents but one of his most remarkable characteristics was his determination to get to the bottom of the problem which he often achieved by formulating his hypothesis and then finding collaborators to actually help him to do the study. Because of his unique skill to form teams, he was able to go way beyond his extraordinary clinical skillset and ask nearly any type of scientific question through partnering with basic, translational and clinical scientists. Eberhard Ritz was never without a project. I remember his famous rounds at the Nierenzentrum Heidelberg, that today is headed by Martin Zeier. I was a newly graduated physician and any case discussed linked back to some sort of science project and was brought into context of current literature. Any treatment plan included newest knowledge. I have rarely
experienced faster learning and more meaningful attention to Nephrology as a discipline than at those rounds led by Eberhard Ritz.
While Eberhard Ritz has influenced many graduates and while many of them are national and international leaders in academia and industry, he had more than knowledge. He had authority, class and charisma. He was an individual with principles and beliefs, and he was not shy in expressing them. When we look at new relevance for Nephrology today, then remembering Eberhard Ritz is a source of inspiration.
Professor Ritz also built Nephrology around the world, particularly in Middle and Eastern Europe. His catalytic activities earned him multiple honorary doctoral titles, for example at the
University of Kattowitz, Stettin, Budapest and Iasi. A particular sign of his respect for others was marked by him giving lectures in various languages. Eberhard Ritz couldn't be put into a particular scheme. He had his own plan and he executed it according to where he saw Nephrology was headed. Unsurprisingly, he became the president of the International Society of Nephrology ERA-EDTA from 2007 to 2009 and served as Editor of Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation from 1993 to 1999.
Eberhard Ritz was a man who valued his privacy. He was married for 45 years to Dr. Christina Ritz, a pediatrician in private practice. He is left behind by her and their four children. He also has five grandchildren. They all loved his warmth and sense of humor and humility.
Nephrology has lost one of its strongest representatives. As we are looking into the future of Nephrology as a discipline and trying to find long-lasting impact and relevance, the principles (collaboration, physician-science, character and steadiness) by which Eberhard Ritz approached our field can help guide us. Both, Martin and I and countless others won't forget him.
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