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Dr. Paul Schreckenberger

Paul Schreckenberger, Ph.D.

In Memoriam: Dr. Paul Schreckenberger

The Loyola Pathology family was shaken and heartbroken this week by the news of the sudden passing of Paul Schreckenberger, PhD, Director of the Microbiology Laboratory. Dr. Schreckenberger was a giant in his field of microbiology and a man of many talents. To us, he was a passionate teacher, a mentor, a boss, a strong patient advocate, a researcher and a friend. He also was a husband to wife Ann and a father of Adam and the late Laura and Scott. He was a lover of history, politics, opera and the Blackhawks and the Cubs. And of course, he was also a gifted guitar player and singer who loved singing carols with The Loyola Voices. He was, as microbiology lab manager Roman Golash put it at the memorial service on Tuesday, a "Renaissance Man."

Dr. Schreckenberger came to Loyola in February 2005 as Director of the Clinical Microbi-ology Laboratory and a Professor of Pathology. He later served as Director of the Molec-ular Pathology Laboratory. Dr. Schreckenberger was recognized worldwide as an expert in microbiology and he lectured at conferences around the globe. He particularly distin-guished himself in his field by developing new systems for laboratory identification of non-fermenting gram-negative rods and in researching bacterial antibiotic resistance. He is one of the lead authors of Koneman's Color Atlas and Textbook of Diagnostic Microbi-ology, one of the most important microbiology texts. He also wrote numerous other book chapters and contributed to 85 journal publications and 259 published abstracts or posters. In 2014, he was one of the lead contributors -- along with urogynecologist Dean Linda Brubaker, MD, and Alan Wolfe, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology -- of a Loyola study reported in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology which debunked the widely-held belief that normal urine is sterile.

Dr. Schreckenberger served on the advisory committees and boards of numerous micro-biology companies, which looked to him for input into the future direction of the field. In 2008, he was elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology and in 2010 he was awarded The Illinois Society for Microbiology's Pasteur Award recognizing individuals who have made outstanding contributions in microbiology. He was constant-ly on the lookout for the latest technology to improve his lab and provide better patient care. His support for multiplex PCR panel tests for rapidly identifying viral and gastroin-testinal pathogens and blood stream infections was highlighted in the January 2016 issue of CAP Today.

Dr. Schreckenberger brought together "exceptional knowledge and unprecedented ex-pertise" with a "personal commitment and passion for education and training others in the amazing world of microbiology," said Eva M. Wojcik, MD, Chair of Loyola's Depart-ment of Pathology. "Paul was an innovative leader, extraordinary teacher, beloved mentor and a true friend to everyone who had the honor to know him, to work with him, or to work for him," Dr. Wojcik said. "He led by example through tireless and hard work without ever losing his compassion for others and, most importantly, for our patients. Paul ‘treated the human sprit’ in every aspect of his personal and professional life, and he will be profoundly missed."

Dr. Schreckenberger was a native of Buffalo, NY, where he was prom king of his high school. He received his bachelor's degree in medical technology from State University of New York at Buffalo in 1970 and completed a Master's Degree in medical technology, with a minor in microbiology, at the University of Minnesota in 1974. After that, he be-gan work as a Medical Technologist. He moved to the Chicago area and became supervi-sor of the Bacteriology Laboratory at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago in 1977. During the 1970s, he also served seven years in the US Army National Guard.
He worked his way up through the UIC microbiology laboratory and in 1989 he complet-ed his PhD there with a major in pathology and a minor in microbiology. His thesis was "The Role of Mobiluncus in Bacterial Vaginosis." After earning his PhD, he served as di-rector of UIC's Clinical Microbiology Laboratory until coming to Loyola. Violeta Rekasius, a Microbiology Technical Specialist at Loyola, worked with him at UIC in the 1970s. "Even at that time, it was all about learning and keeping up with changes to provide the best patient care," she said. Dr. Schreckenberger's daily rounds at 11 a.m. in the Loyola's microbiology laboratory were a highlight for anyone training in microbiology. In fact, medical students, residents, fellows and even attendings from departments frequently attended in hopes of gleaning pearls of wisdom from one of microbiology's masters. Dr. Schreckenberger would visit each of the lab's benches and pass around the Petri dishes as he tackled difficult ques-tions, explained concepts or just engaged in a lively lesson about interesting and unusu-al cases.
"His biggest gift was his sharing of knowledge, His enthusiasm for his field trickled down to the techs in the department,” Rekasius said.
"There's nothing he enjoyed more than seeing how the young people were developing," Golash said. "He always felt we had to nurture the intellectual ability of those kids. He did it very well."
Loyola pathology residents awarded him their Teacher of the Year Award three times, including this past spring for 2016. Hi is the only faculty member to have received this award multiple times! “Dr. Schreckenberger could teach the nitty-gritty details of micro-biology but also tailored his teaching to help residents understand the role they played in patient care by helping clinicians make better choices for their patients,” said Christina Kwong, MD, PhD, a fourth-year pathology resident who is pursuing a fellowship in clini-cal microbiology next year.
"As my mentor, one of the biggest take home messages that I learned was a phrase he used often: 'what does the evidence say?'" she said. "He was a big proponent of evi-dence-based medicine and he always used that as the foundation to handling clinical issues."
Dr. Schreckenberger took pride in running the best microbiology laboratory in the Chica-go area and he was constantly innovating to make sure it was up to speed with the lat-est science and technology, Rekasius said. He also kept spirits high in the department with festivities such as a costume contest or a theme lunch with hot dogs when the Cubs were in the World Series.
"He wanted to make sure this laboratory was at the top of its game -- and it was," Reka-sius said. "He never stopped caring. He never stopped growing. He continued to strive. He never stopped."
Through his work and through being, to put it quite simply, just a really good man, Dr. Schreckenberger touched a lot of lives.
"Paul will be missed but surely he'll always be remembered not only as a remarkable and respected scientist, teacher and medical director but as a loved member of our Loy-ola family," Dr. Wojcik said.
-By John Biemer, MD, PGY4, Department of Pathology

Paul was a true supporterof SCACM, always up to lecturing and giving workshops whenever asked. He served as president in 1990, and was awarded the "Significant Contributor to Microbiology" Award in 1988.

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