Faculty and students at the University of Minnesota held a moment of silence during grand rounds Wednesday in remembrance of Dr. S. Charles Schulz, a prominent but controversial former psychiatry department leader who died Sunday.
Schulz, 72, had been diagnosed last year with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), an incurable neurodegenerative disease that gradually forced him to give up his psychiatric practice and research.
"He was really brave," said Shannon Schulz, his wife of 24 years. "He knew the research and that the treatments out there [for ALS] weren't definitive — that they essentially didn't work."
Schulz was recruited to the U in 1999 to raise the national profile and grant support of its Psychiatry Department, and he did just that until he stepped down in 2015 amid an ethics scandal following the death of a patient in a schizophrenia drug trial.
Project support to the department from the National Institutes of Health increased from $3.5 million in 2000 to more than $10 million a decade later, particularly in the areas of diagnostic imaging and treatment for schizophrenia, federal records show.
Research funding from pharmaceutical companies also increased under Schulz's leadership — a trend that turned problematic as concerns grew nationally about the undue influence of industry money on research outcomes.
Those concerns erupted during the U's trial of three antipsychotic drugs, funded by AstraZeneca, and the coercive methods used to recruit and retain a newly diagnosed schizophrenia patient, Dan Markingson. Pleas by Markingson's mother to Schulz and others to disenroll her son from the trial weren't heeded, and Markingson died by suicide in a group home in 2004.
Pressure on Schulz increased after details of the Markingson case were publicly disclosed in 2008, and he eventually stepped down in 2015 as chairman of the Psychiatry Department as well as from his clinical leadership role at Fairview Health Services.
Schulz then worked at PrairieCare, treating children until his cognitive decline compelled him to surrender patient care duties.
Schulz's career was defined in many ways by his residency in the 1970s at the University of California-Los Angeles, where he witnessed how generalized psychiatric care was ineffective for patients with schizophrenia. He published more than 150 papers, many of them focused on genetic or imaging tests to expedite diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.
His career included research and leadership roles at the National Institutes of Health, the Medical College of Virginia, the University of Pittsburgh and Case Western Reserve University.Schulz also co-founded the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research in the mid-1980s to advance studies of the disorder.
In a highly competitive academic field, Schulz took pride in helping young psychiatrists get started in research and practice, his wife said.
"He always helped along other people's careers," said his wife, Shannon, who was a nurse involved in psychiatric research in Washington, D.C. when she met Schulz. "He was a nice man. That's what I want people to know about him."
A family memorial service is being scheduled in Florida, where Schulz's mother lives. Schulz is survived by three children from a prior marriage. His ashes will be scattered outside a beloved cabin in Wisconsin.