Heidrun Rotterdam

Biography of Heidrun (Heidi) Rotterdam

Heidrun was born in war-torn Germany in 1943, in a small village near the then German city of Danzig, now the Polish city of Gdansk, the fifth child of Walter Vogelberg, an agricultural consultant and teacher, and the first and only child of Ruth Vogelberg, an elementary school teacher. When the Russian army invaded the Eastern part of Germany in 1945, the family fled to Schleswig – Holstein, the most Northern state of what became West Germany, where relatives offered temporary shelter. Her youth was marked by poverty, disease and fear of war. War seemed to the child a necessary evil, for which you had to prepare. A good student, eager to learn, she won a scholarship  at age 16 to study for a year in the U.S. Sponsored by the Michigan Council of Churches, she spent one year in Pontiac, Michigan, attending and graduating from the Waterford Township High School in 1960.

Upon her return to Germany, she had to attend high school for another year, graduating from the Gymnasium in Neumünster in 1961.  She decided to study medicine, since that appeared the most reasonable choice in an unstable world. Doctors were always needed. After finishing medical school in Munich in 1968, she married Paul Rotterdam, an Austrian painter, whose career was starting to take off with exhibitions in Vienna, Italy and the U.S. Invited as a guest lecturer to teach at Harvard University, he and his wife moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. A daughter, Charlotte, was born in Cambridge in 1969.

Unable to secure a residency in Internal Medicine, her first choice, Heidrun accepted an offer for a residency in Pathology at the Pieter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston in 1971. Two years later, the family moved to New York City, at the urging of the painter husband, who realized that New York was the center of the American art world. The couple divorced a few years later.

In New York, Heidrun finished her residency in Pathology at Lenox Hill Hospital and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in 1973. Gastrointestinal pathology became her specialty. She published articles and books, was invited to lecture nationally and internationally, and became an expert in the pathology of AIDS. She left Lenox Hill Hospital in 1985 for an academic career at New York University and later Columbia University, where she remained until her retirement at age 70 in 2013.

Rather than give up her professional activities entirely, she accepted an offer as a part time consultant in gastrointestinal pathology at New York Gastroenterology. Her ultimate retirement is scheduled for June 2020.

There will be time for her hobbies, reading, writing (short stories and poems), playing the piano, travelling, and gardening at her upstate NY country house.  She has 2 grandchildren, with whom she travels every year.

Last updated April 14, 2020