Dr. Horacio Kaufmann wins the AAN’s Irwin Schatz Award for Autonomic Neurology

Dysautonomia Center’s Director Dr. Horacio Kaufmann is being recognized with the 2020 Irwin Schatz award from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). The award honors clinical neurologists that have made great contributions to the field of autonomic medicine.

The AAN award is named after Dr. Irwin Schatz, who in 1964 stood up to the US Public Health Service for deliberately withholding life-saving penicillin treatment to poor, uneducated black men for 40 years so they could understand the natural history of untreated syphilis. While unthinkable today, back in the 1960’s, Schatz was the only physician to question the moral judgement of the authors. At that time, criticizing an investigation overseen by some of the leading figures in the American Public Health Service was a brave act. His letter was suppressed and lay hidden until unearthed by a reporter, who helped bring the injustice to light.

The now infamous Tuskegee study is mandatory learning for anyone wanting to embark on an experiment with humans, and a firm reminder of the oath to first do no harm. Dr. Schatz, a cardiologist from Hawaii, later went on to have a successful career in autonomic medicine. Following his death in 2015, the AAN created an award to recognize pioneering clinical scientists that have made a difference to patients living with autonomic disorders.

Throughout his 35-year career, Dr. Kaufmann has helped hundreds of patients with dysautonomia, as well as taking on some of the most difficult to treat disorders like familial dysautonomia and multiple system atrophy. His work has helped understand prodromal brain disease in patients presenting with autonomic failure, recognize MSA in the early phases, and understand the hereditary neuropathies that affect the autonomic nervous system. He’s been instrumental in bringing new therapies to the clinic, having been to the Food and Drug Administration to get drugs like midodrine and droxidopa approved for patients in the U.S.  Today, Dr. Kaufmann remains busy leading a team of physicians, fellows, nurses, and scientists who focus their efforts on finding treatments for rare autonomic disorders.

[Irv] was the kind of physician I admired because he was never afraid to criticize things that were wrong in medicine – Dr. Horacio Kaufmann, recipient of the 2020 Irwin Schatz Award

Speaking from the Dysautonomia Center during a clinic morning, Dr. Kaufmann said “It’s an honor to be recognized by the AAN. I knew Irv Schatz really well. He was the kind of physician I admired because he was never afraid to criticize things that were wrong in medicine. I am grateful to have been able to call him a colleague and a dear friend”. Dr. Kaufmann was selected by the AAN’s Committee. Please join us on congratulating him on this well-deserved award.