In Memoriam

Liselotte Hochholzer, MD 1926-2020



Figure Legend Dr. Liselotte Hochholzer with Drs. Reginald Wilson, Louise Burke, and Francoise Galateau-Salle, circa 2010.

Liselotte Hochholzer, M.D., formerly, eminent pulmonary pathologist of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) in Washington, DC, died 14 November 2020 of natural causes at the age of 94. She was born in Marktl am Inn, a small town in Bavaria, in 1926, the daughter of a distinguished physician, Dr. Hans Hochholzer, and she received the education of an upper class family of the time. During World War II, when she was a teenager, she was sent by her father to shelter in Carlsbad (currently Karlovy Vary), Czechoslovakia as a place less likely to be bombed by the Allies. Like many other refugees at the end of the war, she fled west, literally walking solo 300 km across Europe to return to her parent’s house in Munich. After completing her studies in medicine and pathology at the University of Munich, she started her career as a Pathologist at the University Hospital in Schleissheim, Germany. She then emigrated to the United States, much against her father’s wishes, to set her own professional course in life. She was hired at the AFIP in the 1960s as a staff pathologist to be the principal assistant to Dr. Samuel H. Rosen, then chair of the Pulmonary and Mediastinal Pathology Division and the first to describe pulmonary alveolar proteinosis. It was here that she learned consultation lung pathology, largely self-taught, by studying the large volume of fascinating cases, which she was fortunate to review as his primary assistant, and Dr. Rosen’s elegantly written reports, which she modeled. When he retired, she became the interim and eventually permanent chair of the division (approximately 1973-1990). She retired in 2000 after more than 30 years at the Institute. She loved classical music and she enjoyed walking, often for miles. She is survived by two godchildren, Elisabeth Schoberer and Thomas Augustin.

Beginning in 1969, Dr. Hochholzer authored or co-authored 43 articles in lung pathology, many of them large clinico-pathological studies that served as definitive pathologic descriptors of entities, and in some cases entirely new entities (e.g., alveolar adenoma). Still, she shunned the spotlight, avoiding where possible speeches in front of large assemblies, principally because she did not want to misspeak in English. She generously spent her time and effort to help other pathologists; for example she collected for Drs. Juan Rosai and Gerald Levine, the authors of Tumors of the Thymus. Atlas of Tumor Pathology (2nd Series), a large variety of thymic tumors for them to review and photograph to enhance their book.

Dr. Hochholzer was a perfectionist, demanding that those who worked for her not only arrive at correct and precise diagnoses but also produce well-written and grammatically correct consultation letters. Her goal was always that contributors of cases be educated by the consultation letter. She could be prickly with subordinates: A favorite phrase (learned from her father) was, “Before you spoke, I thought you were a philosopher!” Still, she had a fun side, often gracing those who worked for her with nicknames, such as “torpedo” for one navy pathologist and “eagle” for another pathologist who had a sharp diagnostic eye. Some, in turn, called her “LH” or “boss”. A number formed fast friendships with her that lasted long after they had moved to different posts or left the military. These were her “boys” (and “girls”). Perhaps most important, she impacted and facilitated the careers of a younger generation of civilian and military lung pathologists as well as pulmonary medicine physicians at a time when pulmonary pathology was a niche area dominated by a few prominent names. In her later years, her primary focus was the nurturing and encouragement of the many foreign-born trainees and fellows who came to the Pulmonary and Mediastinal Division of the AFIP to enhance their diagnostic skills in pulmonary pathology. To many of us, she was more than a “boss”; she was a friend and mentor extraordinaire, and she will be forever missed. But most notably, her legacy lives on in those of us she meticulously “fine-tuned” in the Art of Pulmonary Pathology.

Michael N. Koss, M.D.
Reginald Wilson, M.D.
Douglas England, M.D.  


2019 PPS Lifetime Achievement Award
Professor Elisabeth Brambilla
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