Leading UCSD Neurosciences Professor, Researcher and Physician


  Wigbert C. Wiederholt, M.D., UCSD expert on neurodegenerative disease and former chair of the UCSD Department of Neurosciences, died of cancer on Thursday, March 9 at his home in La Jolla, family and friends at his side. He was 68 years old.

 Wigbert Wiederholt was born in Bad Warmbrunn, Germany.  Both his father and grandfather were physicians. He followed in their footsteps, becoming a doctor, as did three of his younger brothers.  Dr. Wiederholt came to the United States in 1954 on a Fulbright scholarship, and quickly realized that he would stay here to make his career in academic medicine.

 A respected and beloved professor, physician and researcher, Dr. Wiederholt was honored at a ceremonial dinner last March by nearly 200 former residents, UCSD faculty, friends and family who came together from around the world to celebrate his extraordinary spirit and humanity as well as his meaningful contributions in the field of neurosciences.

  “Dr. Wiederholt was one of the most notable and productive department chairs in the history of the School of Medicine.  His accomplishments in research, education and service are unparalleled,” said Interim Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences and Dean David N. Bailey, M.D. “He was a warm, charming individual.  I feel the school is in large part what it is today because of his contributions.”

 James S. Grisolia, M.D., author of a feature article on Dr. Wiederholt in the August 1999 issue of The San Diego Physician said, “Brilliant, acerbic and incomparable, Wigbert C. Wiederholt placed his indelible mark on neurosciences in San Diego, leaving a generation of grateful neurology residents, patients and colleagues.”

 Dr. Wiederholt came to UCSD as a professor of neurosciences in 1972. He was an attending physician both at the UCSD Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Health System, San Diego. He twice served as department chair in Neurosciences, once from 1978 to 1983 and again from 1990 to 1993. When he left his position as chair in 1983 he returned to the Mayo Clinic where he had completed his neurology residency and became a neuroepidemiologist. In that capacity Dr. Wiederholt performed seminal work to clarify the relation between Guillain-Barre and the Swine flu vaccine and participated in important collaborations in dementia research.

 Dr. Wiederholt was responsible for groundbreaking work in the study of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Since 1990 he had headed a team of 35 leading investigators conducting research in Guam to study Lytico-Bodig, a neurodegenerative disease common to the island of Guam. By defining the steps in the progression of the disease, and discovering ways to prevent or arrest it, Dr. Wiederholt hoped to have a major impact on the understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

 UCSD Department of Neurosciences Chair, Leon Thal, M.D., said, “Dr. Wiederholt was a gifted clinician who turned his attention to the issue of dementia in Micronesia. His insightfulness, energy, drive and organization will sorely be missed.”

 Justin Zivin, M.D., Professor of Neurosciences, cites Dr. Wiederholt, who was the first clinician to chair the department, as the impetus for changes that have brought the clinical neurology program at UCSD to its current status as one of the most successful programs in the country. Dr. Zivin said, “His remarkable abilities as a clinician and researcher were matched by his spirited character and his sense of humor.” 

He was widely known for his book Neurology for Non-Neurologists, released February 2000 in its fourth edition. He was finishing his last project in recent months, a neurological self-assessment to be published sometime this year.  This book, written for lay people and non-specialists, is a tool to help diagnose brain disease or to lay any fears of disease to rest.

 During his distinguished career, Dr. Wiederholt was named to half a dozen Who's Who compilations, including the International Who's Who in Medicine.

 Dr. Wiederholt’s undergraduate studies were done at the Universities of Wuerzburg in Bonn, Berlin and Freiburg, Germany and he received his doctor of medicine degree in 1956 from the University of Freiburg. He completed several internships and residencies both in the United States and in Germany. He also received a Master of Science degree from the University of Minnesota in 1965.

 Dr. Wiederholt was board certified in Psychiatry and Neurology and in Electroencephalography, and served as Examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology beginning in 1969. He was licensed in California, Germany, Washington and Guam.

 He was the recipient of numerous honors, and twice received the Department of Neurosciences Award for Outstanding Teaching at UCSD School of Medicine.

 Among his many professional affiliations, he was a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Neurological Association.

 He authored more than 100 articles in leading medical journals and more than 50 other published pieces, including abstracts and book reviews. He had served on the Editorial Board of the Contemporary Neurology Journal since 1995 and the Editorial Board of the Neuroepidemiology Journal since 1996.

 In addition, he was an avid reader, and attended the theater, symphony, and opera regularly.  He was an adventurous traveler and was especially proud of having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro at age 63.  Tennis was also a passion.

 He is survived by his three children, Sven Wiederholt, Karen Wiederholt, and Kristin Wiederholt, and three grandchildren, all of San Francisco; four brothers, Wolfram Wiederholt and Ingo Wiederholt, both of Munich, Germany,  Michael Wiederholt and Winfried Wiederholt, both of Berlin, Germany, and a sister, Annemie Cadogon of Wimborne, Dorset County, U.K.

 A memorial service will be held on Monday, March 20th at 5 p.m at Garren Auditorium on the UCSD campus with a reception following at the office of the Dean, UCSD School of Medicine in the lobby.

 Contributions in lieu of flowers are requested and will go to the W.C. Wiederholt Lectureship established in his honor. Contributions can be sent to: U.C. San Diego Foundation, c/o Floyd Harmon, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093-0696. Checks should be made out to: U.C. San Diego Foundation with a note that the funds go to the Weiderholt Lectureship. Questions may be directed to Joanne Peinado at (858) 822-1071.


 Contact: Leslie Franz (619)543-6163

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