News Visionary orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Norbert Gschwend, dies at the age of 95

Our highly esteemed Professor Norbert Gschwend died in the evening of Sunday, 22 March 2020 at the age of 95. With his pioneering spirit, Norbert Gschwend not only had a formative influence on orthopaedic surgery, but also on the history of Schulthess Klinik.

In 1962, the 37-year-old physician took on the management of the financially-stricken Schulthess Klinik on Neumünsterallee, which had been founded by Wilhelm Schulthess in the late 19th century. At the time, the institution was more of a large private practice and widely unknown. Thanks to the commitment and drive of Norbert Gschwend, this would soon change.

Driver for specialist teamwork

Norbert Gschwend completed his orthopaedic training at Balgrist University Hospital and gained further qualifications in England and the USA. He brought the principle of collegiality, which was a completely new concept in German-speaking hospitals, back from his time in these English-speaking countries. His conviction that success requires participation and shared responsibility advanced specialisation within the clinic and laid the foundation for the team structure we use today with its division into specialist fields.

Pioneer in joint replacement surgery

Norbert Gschwend specialised in the treatment of inflammatory joints that had previously been mainly treated non-surgically. Given the lack of suitable therapies, these conditions often resulted in the most severe deformities. This is why he advocated the transition to orthopaedic surgery and the use of artificial joints, which created a stir at the time. A wide range of artificial joints were then developed at Schulthess Klinik, with Norbert Gschwend as a co-inventor.

At the same time, his open mind recognised the fact that musculoskeletal diseases require not only surgical skill, but also precise diagnosis and medicinal therapy. This is why he soon established a rheumatology department in the clinic. The same innovative basic principle saw the later addition of the neurology, ergotherapy, and physiotherapy departments.

Foundation for our research

A further speciality and innovation at the time was the complete and consistent documentation of all implanted prostheses and the corresponding results. In the 1970s, Norbert Gschwend thus created the basis for our research with the clinic's own documentation centre for hip and knee prostheses. The data recorded in this way resulted in numerous publications in international specialist journals, which made the knowledge accessible to medical practitioners around the world. Norbert Gschwend himself was the lead author of more than 400 and co-author of more than 100 publications.

Physician, sponsor, patron, and friend

On 29 May 1995, at the age of 70, the professor performed his last surgical procedure for us. This operation also marked the inauguration of the new clinic on Lengghalde.

We owe Norbert Gschwend a debt of gratitude that goes far beyond what can be expressed in words. In him, we have lost a great physician, a sponsor, our patron, and a friend.

Schulthess Klinik would like to express its sincere condolences to his family. Given the current exceptional situation, Professor Gschwend will be buried in a private family ceremony.

In loving memory

Franz von Meyenburg on behalf of the Board of Trustees 
Andrea Rytz, CEO on behalf of all the employees of Schulthess Klinik 
Professor Michael Leunig on behalf of all the medical staff

Prof. Norbert Gschwend
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