Dr. Henry J. Heimlich

A renowned thoracic surgeon Dr. Heimlich was president of the Heimlich Institute in Cincinnati, an organization that celebrates creativity in medical innovation. Throughout his seventy-year career, he dedicated his life to finding simple solutions to complex medical problems.

During World War II, as a newly minted surgeon accepting extra-hazardous duty with the US Naval Group in China, Dr. Heimlich developed an innovative treatment for trachoma victims by mixing sulfadiazine into a base of shaving cream. At the time, trachoma was still an incurable infection of the eyelids pervasive in Asia and the Middle East that led to blindness.

In 1957, Dr. Heimlich was the first American surgeon to perform the reversed gastric tube operation, which replaces a damaged or defective esophagus using a tube made from the patient’s stomach. A decade later, he invented the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve, which prevents the lungs from collapsing after chest trauma due to injury or surgery. Used widely by the military during the Vietnam War, the device allowed soldiers who were shot in the chest a good chance of survival for the first time in history. More than four million Heimlich Chest Drain Valves have been sold since that time.

History of Dr. Henry J. Heimlich:

In the early 1970’s, after learning that nearly 4,000 Americans die each year from choking on food or small objects, Dr. Heimlich researched ways to use sub diaphragmatic pressure to save victims of choking. In 1974, he developed a method that allowed air trapped in the lungs to be used to expel the object from the victim’s airway—a method that came to be known as the Heimlich Maneuver. Simple and easy to perform, the Maneuver has saved countless lives. Celebrities the world over who have choked have had their lives saved with the Maneuver including President Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, Jack Lemmon, Cher, Nicole Kidman, and Halle Berry, as well as basketball sportscaster Dick Vitale, New York Mayor Ed Koch, and news anchorman John Chancellor.

In 1980, Dr. Heimlich invented the MicroTrach, a portable oxygen delivery system that allows patients to take oxygen more efficiently than traditional methods. Those who have used the MicroTrach have experienced renewed energy, because breathing became more effortless. And, because the Microtrach allows patients to use less oxygen, they don’t spend as much time tethered to a large oxygen concentrator. Instead, patients are more mobile, relying on a smaller, portable oxygen delivery device.

Throughout his career, Dr. Heimlich published more than 100 scientific papers and presented more than 250 medical lectures. In 1961, he founded the Dysphagia Foundation, which developed techniques for teaching stroke victims to swallow again. He was also the recipient of many awards, such as the 1981 Distinguished Service Award, presented by the American Society of Abdominal Surgeons; the 1984 Albert Lasker Award; and the 1985 American Academy of Achievement Award. In 1992, Dr. Heimlich was the guest of honor at the 1992 National Awards Dinner of the Maimonides Research Institute in Haifa, Israel. In 1984, he was inducted into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame and into the Safety and Health Hall of Fame International in 1993.