In Memoriam: Helmut Diefenthal, MD, PhD


Helmut Diefenthal blurb

The first ACR Global Humanitarian Award recipient and an ACR Honorary Fellow, passed away on June 30 at the age of 95.

Diefenthal survived anti-Semitism in Germany, as well as front-line duty as a medic during World War II. After the war, he went on to earn his German medical degree — with the intent of serving those less fortunate.

Diefenthal’s international work began with a move to Malaysia, following his joining the Lutheran Missionaries — where he remained for four years. The next assignment was to a remote village hospital in the Paré mountains in northeastern Tanzania. He later moved to Minneapolis, Minn., for five years, where he obtained his American medical degree, as well as a specialty degree in radiology. He returned to Moshi, Tanzania, and set up a radiology department there for a brand new hospital — the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC). After two years, he returned to Minneapolis, where he continued working as a radiologist for the VA Medical Center until he retired.

Diefenthal then returned to KCMC to develop the first sub-Saharan radiology residency program focused on training health personnel in the use of radiology for developing countries in Africa — especially in Tanzania, where he was based. He would go on to teach and serve there as a full-time radiologist for 25 years — until he was 90 — when it was time to return to Minneapolis. Several residents who rotated through his program as part of the ACR Foundation Goldberg-Reeder Travel Grant were awed by his energy and commitment to radiology.

In addition to his work abroad, Diefenthal had a very close relationship with the Minnesota Radiological Society and the University of Minnesota, where he served on staff between 1973 and 1988. Diefenthal was greatly admired for his generosity, his dedication to his patients, and his humanitarianism, receiving numerous awards and international recognition for his work.

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