Dr. Marvin M. Schuster, internationally known gastroenterologist, dies

Dr. Marvin M. Schuster, an internationally known gastroenterologist who founded the Marvin M. Schuster Center for Digestive and Motility disorders at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, died May 12 from heart disease at his Pikesville home. He was 87.

"Dr. Schuster was an internationally renowned pioneer in research and treatment of motility disorders and gastroenterology," Dr. David B. Hellmann, vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote in a note to colleagues announcing his death.

Dr. Hellmann, who is also chairman of the department of medicine at Bayview, noted that Dr. Schuster was trained both in internal medicine and gastroenterology, and "created the first gastrointestinal division that integrated full-time psychologists and medical faculty."

Dr. Pankaj Pasricha, professor of medicine in the Johns Hopkins Division of Gastroenterolgy and chief of the Johns Hopkins Amos Center for Mind, Body and Food, called Dr. Schuster "a pioneer and seminal figure" in his field.

In an email, he said Dr. Schuster's teachings, papers and books "held sway for multiple generations of motility doctors, and laid the foundation for what we have come to understand today as the 'gut-brain-axis' and the interplay between the two major nervous systems in the body."

Marvin Meier Schuster was the son of Isaac Schuster, owner of Schuster's New Department Store, and Rosel Katzenstein Schuster, a homemaker. He was born and raised in Danville, Va., and graduated from George Washington High School.

He obtained two bachelor's degrees in 1951 and a medical degree in 1955 from the University of Chicago.

After completing an internship at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was a resident at the old Baltimore City Hospitals from 1956 to 1958, then was a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1958 to 1961.

In 1958, following training at Hopkins in both internal medicine and gastroenterology, he established and headed the Division of Digestive Diseases at Baltimore City Hospitals.

In 1996, the center became the Marvin M. Schuster Center for Digestive and Motility Disorders, the nation's first such comprehensive research and care facility for patients with gastrointestinal and motility disorders.

Dr. Schuster's research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"He identified a non-surgical test that became the gold standard for diagnosing Hirschsprung's disease, and he was the first to record myoelectrical activity from human sphincteric muscle," Dr. Hellmann wrote.

Dr. Schuster was an expert in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, having seen thousands of patients who suffered from it. IBS can include stomach pain, bloating and abnormal bowel movements, and in a 1997 article in Johns Hopkins Magazine, Dr. Schuster said that for many, it triggered fear of social activity, loss of dignity and pain "so intense that it dominates the patient's life."

He described it as a treatable disorder, saying: "Irritable bowel syndrome is an illness just as diabetes and heart disease are illnesses."

He co-authored "Keeping Control: Undertsanding and Overcoming Fecal Incontinence" and was also co-author of "Schuster Atlas of Gastrointestinal Motility in Health and Disease."

"He had such an infectious enthusiasm for his field and was beloved by his patients," said Dr. Hellmann. "When he retired in 2000, there was such an outpouring of affection by his patients for Marv at a reception."

Dr. Hellmann said that in addition to treating local people who lived near City Hospitals, others came "from all over the world," to see Dr. Schuster.

"During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, not too many patients arrived at City Hospitals in a limousines, but King Hassan II of Morocco —who was one of Marv's patients — did," he said.

Dr. Schuster would fly to Morocco to attend to the king, who suffered from a stomach order. A 1977 article in the Evening Sun said: "The Baltimore specialist says he has declined a fee, but has accepted a block grant, 'a generous gift,' the amount of which he would not disclose, from the King for digestive disease research being conducted jointly by City and Hopkins."

"Not to take anything away from his professional accomplishments, what one is left with is the impression of what a great human he was — kind, understanding, patient and respectful to people at all stations of life," wrote Dr. Pasricha. "He made them feel special."

In addition to his work at Bayview, Dr. Schuster had been chief of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Digestive Disease Division, and a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the medical school.

He was a past president of the American College of Gastroenterology and received the Moses Rosenfeld Memorial Award from the United Ostomy Association, the St. George's Award from the American Cancer Society and the Physician of the Year Award from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

He was a member of Beth El Congregation and the Suburban Country Club.

The longtime Pikesville resident enjoyed sailing, tennis, bridge and playing golf. He was also an accomplished sculptor.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Dr. Lois Bernstein, a retired psychologist.

"We met and got married two months later. It was the only impetuous thing he ever did in his life," said his wife.

Services were held May 14 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

In addition to his wife, he is survied by three daughters, Cathie Pascale of Stoneleigh, Bobbie Arthur of Denver, and Nancy Bachman of Woodcliff Lake, N.J.; a sister, Bernice Schuster of Baltimore; and seven grandchildren.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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