Delaware County connections

May 18, 2012

[caption width="250" caption=" Helmut Schmidt, M.D. (Courtesy | Ohio Department of Aging) "][/caption]


Staff Writer

Those who sleep near someone who no longer snores have Powell resident Dr. Helmut Schmidt to thank.

The late doctor was considered a pioneer in the field of sleep medicine, raising awareness about sleep disorders and their impact on one’s overall health. One scientific journal referred to him as an unsung hero.

Yet his accomplishments did not go unnoticed by the Department of Aging, which recently inducted Dr. Helmut Schmidt into the 2011 Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.

“If anyone deserves it, he really was someone who I felt was well-deserving,” said his son Dr. Markus Schmidt, who is board certified in sleep medicine. “I was very proud of him.”

Dr. Helmut Schmidt was one of 19 inductees into the hall of fame in a field that included scientists, teachers, activists and volunteers.

Department of Aging spokesperson Dennis Evans said 58 nominations were submitted.

The honor recognizes native-born Ohioans or long-time state residents for their contributions to their communities after the age of 60 or lifetime achievements that represent aging.

In Dr. Helmut Schmidt’s case, he improved people’s lives by improving their sleep.

“People in the medical field had taken sleep for granted,” Dr. Markus Schmidt said of the era before his father’s pioneering efforts.

His father’s achievements include founding the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute, an independent sleep center in Dublin.

He also helped persuade insurance companies to recognize and reimburse sleep medicine services while serving as the co-chairman of the Insurance Committee of the American Sleep Disorders Association.

“Without (insurance companies’ recognition), no one would be seeing a sleep medicine physician,” Dr. Markus Schmidt said.

Furthermore, H. Schmidt also helped create the first classification system of sleep disorders.

The symptoms of some include snoring.

“If somebody snores, they kind of laugh it off,” Schmidt said. “But snoring is a sign of sleep apnea,” which can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes.

Schmidt said there are more than 80 different disorders that happen only in sleep.

“It took people like my father to recognize how important sleep is,” he added.

A sleep physician himself, the younger Schmidt followed the path his father blazed.

“It was a challenge because for many years, sleep was seen as a research venture but not a clinical thing,” he said. “It took people with a vision to make it a real medical specialty.”

He said his father also “gave legitimacy” to those who were in the field by creating an examination process by which to certify physicians.

Dr. Helmut Schmidt died at the age of 71 on Oct. 20, 2010. He passed unexpectedly from a brain hemorrhage. His death came after he had learned of the Senior Citizen Hall of Fame nomination but before his induction.

He was survived by his wife, Angelika; another son, Daniel; and three grandchildren: Julien, Jumana and Clara.

Growing up with an ambitious, nationally recognized doctor as a father, Marcus Schmidt said excellence was always expected.

He said he was not pressured to go into sleep medicine, only pressured to do well in whatever field he chose.

“No matter what life you’re in, keep doing the right thing,” was Dr. Helmut Schmidt’s mantra, his son said. “If you don’t compromise on excellence, people will eventually recognize that.”

Indeed, in his lifetime, Schmidt said his father’s practice drew tens of thousands of patients.

Even now, through the recent induction, Dr. Helmut Schmidt’s perseverance continues to be acknowledged.