William J. Weiner, MD, professor and chairman of neurology and director of the University of Maryland Parkinson and Movement Disorder Center, died of complications of multiple myeloma on Dec. 29, 2012.
His life was a love affair with neurology, his wife and children, and his patients. Dr Weiner was an internationally recognized clinical investigator, neurologic educator, and prolific author with a longstanding focus on movement disorders. He edited 27 books, published 400 articles and chapters, and was the principal investigator of countless therapeutic trials over three decades of his distinguished career.
He was a valued member of the editorial advisory board of Neurology Today, and our editorial team extends our heartfelt sympathy to his family. On a personal level, I will miss him. Bill and I had a friendship that spanned four decades and began when we trained together as neurology residents.
Bill's interest in movement disorders began long before he entered his neurologic training program. As a high school student, he witnessed firsthand the devastation that an inherited neurodegenerative disorder could create when Harold Klawans Jr., MD, diagnosed his father with Huntington's chorea. The experience shaped his career. He developed a close relationship with Dr. Klawans that evolved from mentorship to professional collaboration.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Illinois, Bill excelled academically at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. In his senior year, he began movement disorder research with Dr. Klawans. He received the medical school's Moldovsky Physiology Prize and graduated with honors. He chose a neurology residency at Rush Medical College so that he could continue to work with Dr. Klawans. Dr. Klawans was a prolific movement disorder researcher and author, and Bill emulated his practice.
After seven years as a colleague of Dr. Klawans, both at the University of Chicago and at Rush, Bill moved to the University of Miami where his independent academic career flourished. During his 17-year tenure at Miami, he participated in many multi-university therapeutic trials as part of the Parkinson and Huntington Study Groups. Bill's research was always focused on enhancing the treatment of patients with degenerative neurological disorders.
In 2001, Bill moved to Baltimore where he was appointed chair of neurology at the University of Maryland. His life became more complete when he married Lisa M. Shulman, MD, herself a distinguished movement disorders investigator. At Maryland, he emphasized and expanded the department's focus on the importance of improving patient care.
In addition to his numerous books on diagnosing and treating movement disorders, he edited multiple editions of two popular general neurology texts: Neurology for the Non-Neurologist (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) and Emergent and Urgent Neurology (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). He was the editor of Current Treatment Options in Neurology (Springer) from 2002 until his death, and he was a longstanding member of the AAN Quality Standards Subcommittee.
I will always remember the difficult decision Bill faced in 1972 when we worked together as neurology residents. Dr. Klawans, along with Drs. Andre Barbeau, George Paulson, and I, reported that people at risk for Huntington's disease developed chorea when given L-dopa. The study was controversial because of concern over the test's sensitivity and specificity as well as the absence of an effective treatment.
Bill recognized how the information from an L-dopa challenge might change his life and the lives of his children and decided against participating. More than two decades passed before the gene defect for Huntington's was described in 1993 and a reliable genetic test for the disease became available. Older and ready to deal with the consequences of the information, he underwent genetic testing and was relieved to find out that he did not possess the abnormal Huntington gene. Unburdened of what undoubtedly had haunted him for years, he wisely and sensitively used his personal experience to advise neurologists, geneticists, and their patients and families who had to face a similar decision.
Fulfilling his wishes, Lisa arranged for hospice care for Bill in their home during his last two weeks of life. He was surrounded by the people he loved, and who loved him. His daughters Miriam and Monica, his brother Barry and sister Merle, Lisa's sons Joshua and Corey, and his many colleagues and friends had the opportunity to spend time with him. As a sign of his faculty's admiration and esteem, his departmental colleagues and both university and hospital senior administrators came to his home to show their respect for him.
The University of Maryland Medical Center general neurology in-patient service has been named the William J. Weiner, MD, General Neurology Service. Bill surprised all when he spoke movingly that day of all the wonderful moments that punctuated his outstanding career.
We are fortunate that Bill Weiner's neurological legacy will continue with his wife Lisa and her son Josh Shulman, both movement disorder academicians. Bill and Lisa established the Leonard and Maxine Weiner annual lectureship in movement disorders at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to honor his parents. I'm quite certain that were he alive, Bill's father Leonard would be proud that he was the inspiration for Bill's lifetime commitment to improving the lives of patients with chronic neurologic disorders.
Contributions in memory of William J. Weiner, MD, may be sent to University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, 110 South Paca Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 or University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, 22 South Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.