Dr. Edwin Schneiders: Dean Clinic’s First Specialist
In 1950, St. Mary’s Hospital may have set a world’s record in its consecutive number of maternity cases without a mother’s death. That’s thanks, in part, to the leadership of Dr. Edwin Schneiders, who led St. Mary’s obstetrical department since the time it first opened in 1926.
In a time when danger was still commonplace during birth, Dr. Schneiders reported that St. Mary’s had not had a mother’s death in a maternity case since September 1945. The grand total of 7,715 successful maternity cases far exceeded the number of safe births recorded in the 1949 Yearbook of Obstetrics (6,815). Clearly, Dr. Schneiders did his job exceedingly well.
Edwin F. Schneiders was born in Marathon, Wisconsin, in 1895. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in 1916 as a pre-medical student. While attending UW, he played baseball and was such a talented pitcher that he was drafted by a professional baseball team. Upon graduation, Schneiders was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, where he conducted research on poisonous gases until the end of World War I.
In 1919, Schneiders enrolled at Harvard Medical School and received his medical degree in 1921. He served an internship in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston City Hospital before returning in 1923 to Wisconsin, where he and Dr. H. Kent Tenney were placed in charge of the University Clinic.
In 1924, Dr. Schneiders joined Dr. Joseph Dean and Dr. James Dean in private practice on a part-time basis. During that same year, when the University of Wisconsin Medical School became a four-year school and its obstetrics department first opened, Dr. Schneiders was appointed to the faculty. In addition to his duties as an obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Schneiders also taught third- and fourth-year medical students and student nurses.
In the early years of his association with the Drs. Dean, Dr. Schneiders worked as an obstetrician and gynecologist, gave routine examinations to infants and took care of many pediatric problems. He continued to function as Dean’s de facto pediatrician until Dean Clinic hired its first official pediatrician in 1933.
St. Mary’s and Dean Clinic
Like Drs. Joseph and James Dean, most of Dr. Schneiders’ hospital work took place at St. Mary’s. He was named the head of the hospital’s new obstetrics department when it opened in 1926, and then chief of staff in 1936.
In 1928, Dr. Schneiders left his position with the university to devote full-time to his private practice with Drs. Joseph and James Dean. During the following year, he and the Dean brothers formed the Dean Corporation and opened the newly named Dean Clinic. Dr. Schneiders continued working with the clinic until he retired in 1971, after 47 years of practice.
According to Dean pediatrician Dr. Tom Geppert, “[Dr. Schneiders] delivered more babies than anybody in the state.” It is estimated that he delivered more than 10,000 babies during his career, including three future Dean Clinic physicians: Drs. Richard Botham, William Brodhead and George Steinmetz.
A ladies’ man … in a doctor’s coat
Dr. Schneiders developed the reputation of being one of the best obstetricians and gynecological surgeons in southern Wisconsin, with many difficult cases being referred to him by general practitioners in communities around Madison. One doctor said, “Dr. Schneiders was always ready to help out another physician with a difficult obstetrical or gynecological problem, whether it was day or night. He was a good teacher and his surgical technique excellent.”
His colleague, Dr. Lou Bernhardt, described him as “a gentle, kind man with a great sense of humor. He was an outstanding obstetrician and at one point I think he delivered half the people in Madison.” Dr. Frank Dean said Dr. Schneiders often would reassure his postoperative gynecological surgical patients by saying, “You are just like a new bride.”
Dr. Schneiders died in 1982 at the age of 86. Among his many awards, he was named an Honorary Life Member of the Wisconsin Medical Society.