About Dr. Heimlich

Dr. Henry J. Heimlich was born February 3, 1920, in Wilmington, Delaware. He received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1941, and his M.D. from Cornell Medical College in 1943.

Dr. Heimlich's career is notable for the abundance of creative, simple solutions he has provided for seemingly insurmountable health and medical problems, beginning in 1945. While assigned to a U.S. Naval Group in China during World War II, Dr. Heimlich took a chance with an innovative treatment for victims of trachoma, an incurable bacterial infection of the eyelids that was causing blindness throughout Asia and the Middle East. A mixture of sulfadiazine ground into a base of shaving cream proved effective, and the staff used the treatment successfully on hundreds of people.

History of Dr Henry Heimlich

In the 1950s, a month after completing training in general and chest surgery, Dr. Heimlich conceived of an operation to replace the esophagus. After successfully performing the procedure, he presented the results at an American Medical Association meeting in 1961. The procedure, dubbed "a hot medical discovery" by Life Magazine, was the first total organ replacement in history. It is used today to overcome birth defects of the esophagus.

Haunted by the image of a Chinese soldier who died on the operating table after being shot in the chest in 1945, Dr. Heimlich set out to develop a valve that would drain blood and air out of the chest cavity. In 1964, the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve was introduced. Dr. Heimlich is considered a hero in Vietnam and the U.S., where the lives of thousands of American and Vietnamese soldiers shot in the chest were saved for the first time in history by a device barely five inches long. It was manufactured for just one dollar at that time. Today more than 250,000 Heimlich valves are used worldwide each year to treat patients with chest wounds, or following surgery. Each valve saves a life.

In 1974, Dr. Heimlich published findings on what was to become the Heimlich Maneuver®. A week later, the first choking victim was saved by the method. Since its introduction, the Heimlich Maneuver has saved over 50,000 people in the United States alone.

In 1980, Dr Heimlich conceived of the Heimlich MicroTrach™, a tiny tube inserted into the trachea at the base of the neck under local anesthesia. Immediately approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the MicroTrachtm has many advantages over other methods of oxygen delivery. During the 1980s, Dr. Heimlich also developed a method for teaching stroke victims and other patients who were fed through a tube to swallow again.

In the present decade, Dr. Heimlich has turned his attention to two devastating illnesses for which medicine has not yet found a cure - cancer and HIV.

Awards and Distinctions