Robert Carl Schlant, MD, 1929–2002
Scientist, Clinician, Teacher, Mentor, Friend
Dr Robert Schlant’s professional career at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, spanned almost half a century, from 1958 to 2002. He rapidly rose through the faculty ranks to become Professor of Medicine in 1967. He was Director of the Division of Cardiology from 1962 to 1988 and Chief of Cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital until 1998. As director of one of the largest cardiology training programs in the nation, he imbued 3 generations of young cardiologists with his love of learning, his passion for excellence, his advocacy of research, and his dedication to patient care. Decades before the contemporary emphasis on evidence-based medicine, he challenged colleagues and trainees alike to seek and apply such evidence. When this was lacking, he designed and implemented research studies to accumulate data and was an active participant in many of the early landmark multicenter coronary and cardiovascular clinical trials as investigator, steering committee member, and publication committee member, to name a few.
He was the consummate teacher, equally skilled at bedside rounds, formal lectures, journal article and textbook writing, textbook editing, and conference organizing. His emphasis was on the teaching-learning interaction, exhorting residents and fellows to both teach each other and to establish their patterns for lifelong learning.
Robert Schlant was born in El Paso, Texas. He graduated as valedictorian from Boys High School in Atlanta, Georgia, and then graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vanderbilt University, where he was one of the youngest starting quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference. In 1951, he graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Society.
He was intern and resident in medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston from 1951 to 1953. After service in the US Army in Korea and Japan from 1953 to 1955, Schlant returned to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital as senior resident in medicine and subsequently Research Fellow in Cardiology for Dr Lewis Dexter, one of the world leaders in cardiac catheterization. During his tenure at the Emory University School of Medicine, Dr Schlant was the recipient of a US Public Health Service Research Career Development Award (1961–1971) and the Georgia Heart Chair of Cardiovascular Research (1972–1982).
Dr Schlant was an active participant in university life at Emory, serving on many research committees and the Admissions and Promotions committees of the Medical School. He joyously organized and led the Commencement Procession for many years.
Dr Schlant was active in numerous national and international cardiovascular professional organizations. He was Chairman of the American Heart Association’s Council on Clinical Cardiology (1985–1987), from which he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in 1990. In 1994, he was honored with the James B. Herrick Award of the American Heart Association (AHA).
Dr Schlant served on numerous committees of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and was Governor of the College for Georgia (1960 to 1962, 1968 to 1971). He chaired 4 Bethesda Conferences and participated in the preparation of several ACC/AHA Clinical Practice Guidelines. He was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1983 to1988.
He was involved in the International Society and Federation of Cardiology (now the World Heart Federation), serving as secretary, vice-chairman, and chairman of its Council on Clinical Cardiology. He participated actively and enthusiastically in teaching courses in developing nations worldwide.
He was active in the American College of Physicians and the Association of University Cardiologists, where he served as president from 1982 to 1983. He was a member of the Subspecialty Board of Cardiovascular Diseases (1971–1978) and chaired the Oral Examination Committee from 1975 to 1978.
Dr Schlant served on the editorial boards of most of the major cardiovascular journals, including Circulation, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the American Journal of Cardiology, and the American Heart Journal. He authored over 250 scientific articles and an equal number of book chapters and was editor or coeditor of several books.
Drs Hurst and R. Bruce Logue created the classic cardiology textbook The Heart in 1966 and were joined by Drs Schlant and Wenger as assistant editors, an association that lasted over 7 editions. Drs Schlant and Wayne Alexander became coeditors of the 8th edition and Dr Schlant joined Alexander and Valentin Fuster as coeditors of the 9th edition of Hurst’s The Heart.
An enthusiastic and award-winning photographer, he meticulously chronicled official and social cardiology events, sharing copies of his photographs with students, trainees, and colleagues alike. Brightly colored photographic enlargements of his work ornamented the cardiology office suite at Grady Memorial Hospital. A gourmet cook and baker, his (non-heart healthy but luscious) cheesecake regularly appeared at last day of cardiology elective or last day of cardiology rotation celebrations.
Despite a courageous protracted battle with illness, Dr Schlant died at home on December 12, 2002. To the last he remained alert and involved. The mischievous twinkle of his happiness was in evidence when a small group of Emory faculty colleagues presented him with a plaque stating that “There is no better physician, academician, friend …” at a private ceremony at his home, in the fall of 2002. He is survived by his wife, Maria Ellingsen Schlant, daughter Stephanie Schlant St. Onge, brother Gilbert Schlant, and four grandchildren. ⇓