Obituary: Michael J. Noetzel, professor of neurology, 70
Pediatric neurologist was known for studying, treating strokes in children
Michael J. Noetzel, MD, a leading pediatric stroke researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died of heart failure on Feb. 20, 2022, at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He was 70.
Noetzel, a professor of neurology and of pediatrics, was a respected clinician, researcher, teacher and administrator. He spent his entire 45-year career at Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He had planned to officially retire this July but intended to continue contributing to the field of pediatric neurology. He was scheduled to teach as an emeritus professor in the fall and was partway through a five-year term on the International Pediatric Stroke Study Publications Committee.
“Dr. Michael Noetzel was a compassionate physician, dedicated scholar, sage administrator and beloved educator,” said Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of the Department of Neurology. “He devoted his life to the training of generations of pediatric neurologists and was often thought of as a father figure in his role as mentor. He had an understated dignity that both put people at ease and earned their respect. He will be dearly missed.”
Noetzel was best known for his research involving strokes in children, especially so-called silent strokes that often go unnoticed by parents and doctors. He played an important role in several major clinical trials, including the Diabetes Control and Complication Trial, and Silent Cerebral Infarct Multi-Center Clinical Trial, which focused on sickle cell disease. Both studies resulted in landmark publications in The New England Journal of Medicine and guide the management of these diseases today. Most recently, he published a paper on strokes in children linked to infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Noetzel served as medical director for the Neurorehabilitation Program at St Louis Children’s Hospital from 1990 to 2020, and as director of the Division of Pediatric and Developmental Neurology from 2007 to 2014. He stepped down as division director to take on the duties of vice chair of pediatric and developmental neurology for the department. In that role, he oversaw expansion of the division’s neurological services to facilitate growth in inpatient and outpatient treatments. He also directed the development of subspecialty clinics for children with brain disorders and stroke.
He was raised in Cleveland and earned his bachelor’s degree at Yale University in 1973 and his medical degree at the University of Virginia in 1977. Noetzel joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1980 after completing residencies in pediatrics and neurology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Noetzel received numerous awards and most recently was selected by the Child Neurology Society to receive the 2022 Roger Brumback Lifetime Achievement Award.
A former two-sport college athlete, Noetzel loved sports, was a voracious reader and a devout Catholic active in his local parish, and most enjoyed time with family.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Mary Noetzel; sons Justin (Janine) Noetzel and Evan (Julia Reardon) Noetzel; daughters Anna (Anthony Gattuso) Noetzel and Katy Noetzel; four siblings, Mary Brevard, Margaret Ellison, Monica Hurley and Mark Noetzel; eight grandchildren; and numerous in-laws, nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be Friday, March 4, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Lupton Chapel, 7233 Delmar Blvd., University City, Mo. A funeral mass will be held Saturday, March 5, at 10 a.m. at Christ the King Catholic Church, 7316 Balson Ave., University City.
Memorial contributions may be made to Forest Park Forever and Access Academies.