Remembering Hiltrud Mueller, M.D., A Traliblazing Physician Scientist
instein and Montefiore have lost a former faculty and staff member Hiltrud Mueller, M.D., who died peacefully at her home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on December 23, at age 94.
A trailblazing physician-scientist, during 26 years at Einstein and Montefiore, Dr. Mueller served as professor of medicine, associate chief of the division of cardiology, quality improvement chair, and director of the Moses Cardiac Care Unit (CCU). She retired in 2006.
“Hiltrud was a true leader and had a remarkable career,” said James Scheuer,M.D., university chair of medicine emeritus and distinguished professor of medicine emeritus, who recruited Dr. Mueller to Montefiore in 1981 to assist him in running the division of cardiology (which is now the James and Ruth Scheuer Division of Cardiology).
A Trailblazer for Women
As the first female cardiologist to serve as a chief of cardiology and to be elected to the Association of University Cardiologists, Dr. Mueller helped pave the way for many women in her field to follow.
During her early years at Montefiore, Dr. Mueller ran the Moses CCU and established a Platelet Laboratory, investigating developments in the treatment of acute and chronic coronary artery disease. Her contribution to the early NIH-sponsored Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) trials, which established the importance of opening the occluded coronary artery in heart attacks, was among her many significant achievements. A key member of the original TIMI study group, chaired by Dr. Eugene Braunwald of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Mueller’s dogged recruitment of trial participants made Montefiore the top-enrolling center in TIMI 2 and all the subsequent work with this group.
“This discovery is responsible for saving many lives as well as changing the practice of cardiology,” Dr. Scheuer said. Thanks to Dr. Mueller’s pioneering achievements, the early mortality rate for an acute heart attack—which previously had been upwards of 15%—is now less than 1 to 2%, he noted.
While at St. Vincent Hospital and Medical Center in Manhattan during the 1970s, Dr. Mueller pioneered the use of the intra-aorta balloon pump in cardiogenic shock and wrote the seminal 1973 New England Journal of Medicine paper with Dr. Steve Schiedt and other colleagues (see link below).
Teacher and Friend
A dedicated teacher, clinician, researcher, and mentor, Dr. Mueller was known to run a “tight ship.’ She demanded excellence from her fellows, TIMI nurses, RN staff, and colleagues. As a mentor to hundreds of fellows, she helped launch many successful careers and cared deeply about their personal growth.
“Dr. Mueller always knew what was going on with fellows’ and faculty members’ personal lives. She would offer an ear to listen or lend a hand to help,” said Mark Menegus, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Einstein Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. He was among the many young cardiologists that Dr. Mueller took under her wing as fellows. As an attending cardiologist, he has remained a lifelong friend.
“She made us all better physicians and researchers, taught us when to go ‘toe-to-toe’ and when to back off, and by example, how to accomplish this with grace and style,” Dr. Menegus added. He was deeply touched when Dr. Mueller, at age 89, traveled by bus to Wayne, New Jersey, to attend his father's wake.
Kerry Tobia, a nurse and patient care coordinator in the CCU at Montefiore, recalled Dr. Mueller reaching out when she had complications with her pregnancy. “She really did care so much about all of us and not just on a professional level,” Ms. Tobia said, noting how Dr. Mueller loved to attend parties and dance. “She has left us with incredible knowledge as well as respect for her and for our professions that I value to this day.”
Clara Davilman, a nurse and quality management coordinator at Montefiore, often met with Dr. Mueller to determine which cases would be presented in quality improvement meetings. “Teaching was her life, and she loved it,” recalled Ms. Davilman. “When she retired, she gave me a picture of the Swiss Alps that she had taken on one of her many trips. I asked her what camera she used, and she replied, ‘Clara, it’s not the camera but the beauty of nature.’ I still have that picture on the wall in my office. I will always cherish it, as I admired her tenacity, spunk, and love of life. She was fearless.”
Born in 1926, in Heidelberg, Germany, Dr. Mueller graduated from the University of Heidelberg in 1950 and received a doctorate in pharmacology in 1951. She went on to complete an internship and residency at the University Hospital of Heidelberg in 1955 and then worked as assistant director in the department of cardiology at City Hospital, in Brunswick, Germany. In 1962, she became an attending cardiologist at the University of Heidelberg and was board certified in internal medicine.
Dr. Mueller left Germany in 1963 to work as a visiting physician at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and at the Hospital Broussais, in Paris. She also enrolled in a post-graduate course at Hammersmith Hospital, in London. The following year, she returned to Germany as a full-time attending physician in internal medicine and cardiology at the University Hospital of Essen.
In 1965, Dr. Mueller set sail for the United States to pursue a cardiology fellowship at the University Hospital of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. After passing the New York state boards, she became a faculty member in the US Public Health Service’s Training Program in cardiopulmonary physiology at the former St. Vincent Hospital in Manhattan, where one year later, she became director of the Intensive Coronary Care and Shock Unit. In 1973, she left New York to serve as director of the division of cardiology at St. Vincent Hospital, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Prior to joining Montefiore Einstein in 1981, she was chief of cardiology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri.
Life after Montefiore Einstein
Even in retirement, at age 81, Dr. Mueller remained active and engaged. She studied French, visited museums with her companion Tom Maccani, whom she met in 2004, and enjoyed hiking in her beloved Alps.
“One of her most memorable times was spending six weeks in Paris,” Mr. Maccani recalled. “It was heaven for her, and one of many long stays.”
Dr. Mueller is survived by Mr. Maccani and a sister in Germany. In lieu of a memorial service, Dr. Mueller’s ashes will be scattered in the Hudson River between the Verrazano Bridge and the Statue of Liberty – the entry point as she sailed into America to begin her new life. At Dr. Mueller’s request, donations can be made to a special fellowship education fund that will be set up at Montefiore. Details will soon be made available.
Dr. Mueller will be sorely missed, but her indomitable spirit and remarkable legacy will continue to inspire us.
Editor’s Note: Inside Einstein thanks the department of medicine and the James and Ruth Scheuer Division of Cardiology for providing this in memoriam of Dr. Mueller. Those wishing to leave a memory may do so by visiting the Remembrance page for Hiltrud Mueller, M.D. Below is a brief list of Dr. Mueller’s groundbreaking research starting in 1970. Her many notable accomplishments changed the way we care for patients.
Inotropic agents in the treatment of cardiogenic shock.
Mueller HS.World J Surg. 1985 Feb;9(1):3-10. doi: 10.1007/BF01656250.PMID: 3885584 Review. No abstract available.
Effects of dopamine on haemodynamics and myocardial energetics in man: comparison with effects of isoprenaline and L-noradrenaline.
Mueller HS. Resuscitation. 1978;6(3):179-89. doi: 10.1016/s0300-9572(78)80012-4.PMID: 741096
Intra-Aortic Balloon Counterpulsation in Cardiogenic Shock — Report of a Cooperative Clinical Trial
Stephen Scheidt, Gary Wilner, Hiltrud Mueller, et al; N Engl J Med 1973; 288:979-984; doi: 10.1056/NEJM197305102881901
Principle defects which account for shock following acute myocardial infarction in man: implications for treatment.
Mueller H, Ayres SM, Grace WJ.Crit Care Med. 1973 Jan-Feb;1(1):27-38. doi: 10.1097/00003246-197301000-00005.PMID: 4757962 No abstract available.
Cardiac performance and metabolism in shock due to acute myocardial infarction in man: response to catecholomines and mechanical cardiac assist.
Mueller H, Ayres SM, Giannelli S Jr, Conklin EF, Mazzara JT, Grace WJ.Trans N Y Acad Sci. 1972 Apr;34(4):309-33. doi: 10.1111/j.2164-0947.1972.tb02686.x.PMID: 4502562 No abstract available.
Effect of isoproterenol,l-norepinephrine, and intraaortic counterpulsation on hemodynamics and myocardial metabolism in shock following acute myocardial infarction.
Mueller H, Ayres SM, Giannelli S Jr, Conklin EF, Mazzara JT, Grace WJ.Circulation. 1972 Feb;45(2):335-51. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.45.2.335.PMID: 5009478 No abstract available.
Hemodynamics, coronary blood flow, and myocardial metabolism in coronary shock; response of 1-norepinephrine and isoproterenol.
Mueller H, Ayres SM, Gregory JJ, Giannelli S Jr, Grace WJ.J Clin Invest. 1970 Oct;49(10):1885-902. doi: 10.1172/JCI106408.PMID: 5460498 Free PMC article.
Posted on: Monday, March 01, 2021