Obituary: Dr. Birgit Köhler

23 Apr 2019

It is with endless sadness and consternation that we witness the early death of Dr. Birgit Köhler.

Dr. Birgit Köhler studied political economics at the University of Tübingen, Germany and medicine at the Free University Berlin and graduated from the medical school in 1997. Dr. Birgit Köhler had gained interest in pediatric endocrinology already as a medical student. I had the privilege to supervise her PhD thesis on transient congenital hypothyroidism and hyperthyrotropinemia: normal thyroid function and physical devlopment at the age of 6-14 years. In 2005 she was recognized as pediatrician by the chamber of physicians. She received her d octoral degree in 1999 and was appointed as physician at the University Hospital in Marburg. In 2001 she was awarded a research fellowship of ESPE and spent two years at the University of Montpellier, France with Charles Sultan and Serge Lumbroso at the department of ,Hormonologie du Devéloppement et de la Reproduction“ und „INSERM 540 Pathologie Moléculaire des Récepteurs Nucléaire“,

She joined the Berlin group again in 2004 and was awarded a grant from the German Society of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes to finish her subspecialization in pediatric endocrinology in 2006.

Dr. Birgit Köhler, as a role model of a physician scientist, was engaged in translational research throughout her professional career including the time of her clinical specialization in pediatrics and pediatric endocrinology.

The care of patients with DSD became the center of her interest following her seminal studies of WT1 mutations in chidren with “simple” hypospadias. Against all odds she pursued her ambition to improve the care of children with DSD and the societal challenges they and their families are facing. She was the heart of the pediatric GID team (gender identity disorders) of the Charité in Berlin.  Dr. Birgit Köhler became the coordinator of the EU funded DSD lifeproject and led  the multidisciplinary DSD team and was  an active member of the German DSD network. With Prof. Claire Nihoul-Fekete she tried to deliver the best care possible in Europe and cooperated intensively with Prof John Acherman at UCL to decipher unknown pathomechanisms leading to DSD. She participated in the clinical outcome project and basic science projects investigating the genetic causes of DSD in the German DSD network study (German Ministery of Education and Research, BMBF, 2004-2008). She was a key person in various European collaborations (University College London; Montpellier University Hospital Centre, Hôpital Necker-Enfants malades, Paris; University of Birmingham, UK; University of Zurich, Switzerland; National Research Centre Cairo, Egypt). Furthermore, she contributed to the development of the German clinical guidelines for management of DSD (AWMF). She was a significant expert reporting to the german ministry of health and to the national ethic board regarding the needs of patients with DSD. Already struck with the recurrence of cancer she was awarded a grant from the Innovation Funds of the federal ministry of Health to develop and standardize the care of patients with DSD: Empower DSD.  

We all had thought that she had overcome her cancer diagnosis and we were shocked by the sad news. We, her patients and their families will miss her and we bow to her commitment to those who are in desperate of a specialized expertise. 

Prof. Dr. Annette Grueters-Kieslich

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