Dr. Robert "Bob" Siekert

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Dr. Robert "Bob" Siekert, of Rochester, passed away Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at Charter House. He was 89 years old.

Dr. Siekert was born, raised and attended public schools in Milwaukee, Wis., the son of a physician, Hugo P. Siekert, and a seamstress, Elisa (Kraus) Siekert. While growing up, Bob participated in debate, ran track, speed skated, became an accomplished chess and card player, and worked for a fashionable Milwaukee men's clothing store. At age 17, Bob completed high school early in December 1941, just after Pearl Harbor, and immediately enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; then, in June 1942, he entered Northwestern University. In September 1943, Bob entered Northwestern University Medical School. During summers at Northwestern, Dr. Siekert worked as a lifeguard at Northwestern Beach. While in medical school, he served in the U.S. Army from December 1943 until March 1946. In those days, medical students had classes Saturday mornings and military drills Saturday afternoons. Dr. Siekert also was a fellow in anatomy at Northwestern during his last year of medical school. He completed medical school and a Master of Science in Anatomy in June 1947. Dr. Siekert did his internship in surgery at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center which he completed in June 1948 at which time he was awarded his M.D. degree from Northwestern. 

From July 1948 until December 1949, Dr. Siekert was an instructor in Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and an assistant resident in Neurology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. While at Penn, Dr. Siekert met a beautiful nurse, Mary Jane Evans, who would eventually become his wife for 62 years. In January 1950, Dr. Siekert moved to Rochester and began his fellowship in Neurology at the Mayo Clinic. In Rochester, he lived at the Wilson Club on the site currently occupied by the Hilton Building. His fellowship was interrupted when he was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy and stationed in the psychiatry department of a naval hospital in Philadelphia from November 1950 until December 1952. Dr. and Mrs. Siekert were married in February 1951, and their oldest son, Bob Jr. was born in August 1952. Thereafter, Dr. Siekert returned to the Mayo Clinic, completed his neurology training, served as an assistant to the staff in Neurology, and joined the Mayo Clinic Staff as a consultant in Neurology in October 1954. Bob and Mary Jane would have two more sons, John and Fred, and they raised their family and lived in Rochester together for the next 60 years.

While Dr. Siekert's writings covered a broad spectrum of neurologic and medical disorders, both adult and pediatric, he became especially interested in cerebrovascular disease early in his career. Dr. Siekert first described what later became known as transient ischemic attack (TIA) and was one of the first proponents of the use of anticoagulant therapy in the treatment of cerebral ischemia. Dr. Siekert became recognized internationally as a clinical diagnostician and for his published work on the diagnosis and management of cerebrovascular disease. 

In the 1950s, Dr. Siekert became active in the Princeton Conferences on Cerebral Vascular Diseases and served as an editor of those proceedings in 1961, 1964, 1966 and 1968. Dr. Siekert also was active in the Council on Cerebrovascular Disease, later known simply as the Stroke Council, of the American Heart Association (AHA), serving as a member, vice-chairman and chairman of the Executive Council of the Stroke Council, among other positions. Dr. Siekert conceived the idea and was the founding chairman of the AHA's Joint International Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation, now called the International Stroke Conference and considered the preeminent stroke meeting worldwide. Dr. Siekert chaired this conference from 1976 through 1980. Dr. Siekert also actively participated in the publication of the AHA journal Stroke, Journal of Cerebral Circulation, from its inception and for over 20 years thereafter, as the head of its "Abstracts from the Literature" section, member of the editorial board, and consulting editor. For these and other contributions, the AHA presented Dr. Siekert its Distinguished Achievement Award in 1984 and an Award of Merit in 1989. In 1988, the AHA established the Robert G. Siekert Young Investigator Award to be conferred annually at the International Stroke Conference.

Dr. Siekert authored numerous peer-reviewed articles and was the editor of the Cerebrovascular Survey Reports for 1970, 1976 and 1980 of the Joint Council Subcommittee on Cerebrovascular Disease, National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and National Heart and Lung Institute. Dr. Siekert served on the Alumni Board of Councilors, Northwestern University Medical School, from 1974 through 1987, as a member, vice-chairman and chairman, for which he received an Alumni Service Award in 1983. Dr. Siekert was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and was an active member for many years in numerous professional societies among which were the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, and the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy.

In addition to treating patients, Dr. Siekert served in a variety of academic, educational, and administrative positions during his long career at Mayo. He rose through the academic ranks to Professor of Neurology, a rank he held from 1969 to 1991. Dr. Siekert served as the head of a section of Neurology from 1965 to 1976 and on numerous committees at the clinic. Dr. Siekert was a member of the Board of Governors of the Mayo Clinic from 1973 to 1980 and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Mayo Foundation from 1974 to 1981. Dr. Siekert was editor-in-chief of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings from 1982 through 1986. To honor Dr. Siekert's pioneering work in cerebrovascular diseases and his many institutional contributions, the Mayo Clinic presented Dr. Siekert with its Mayo Clinic Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012.

In addition to his professional interests, Dr. Siekert fully participated in his sons' pastimes, including coaching Little League Baseball, joining Indian Guides, and attending all of his sons' games, recitals, concerts and other activities. Dr. Siekert had a wide variety of hobbies: collecting stamps, coins, and antique beer steins; reading; gardening; and travel. He relished socializing away from the clinic with his colleagues. He enjoyed various clinic-wide and departmental functions, especially the annual summer Neurology picnic including the consultant-resident softball game. He was a founding member of a small-ante poker club that met monthly for over 50 years. Dr. and Mrs. Siekert delighted in entertaining and they hosted frequent cocktail and dinner parties. Dr. Siekert was a member of the Rotary Club and Zumbro Lutheran Church. He volunteered often including delivering for Meals on Wheels.

Dr. Siekert stressed the importance of setting lofty goals, working hard, and doing one's best. A devoted husband, father, brother and friend, Dr. Siekert had a great sense of humor and always thought first of his wife and family. He was a loyal and vigorous man and a steady source of hope, love, joy and inspiration.

Dr. Siekert was preceded in death by his parents and by his wife, Mary Jane.

Dr. Siekert is survived by son, Bob Jr. (Linda) of Plano, Texas; son, John of Rochester; son, Fred (Glenna) of Prior Lake; sister, Lorraine Thomas of Mequon, Wis.; nephew, Bob (Sharon) Thomas of Brown Deer, Wis.; niece, Jackie (Bill) Niehaus of West Bend, Wis.; sister-in-law, Sandra Evans of Tamaqua, Pa.; and nephew, Jack Evans of State College, Pa.

A memorial service is planned for Friday, March 14, at 2:30 p.m. in the Charter House Chapel. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Northwestern University, the Poverello Foundation, or the Mayo Foundation.


Published in The Post-Bulletin on Mar. 11, 2014
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