Stanford University School of Medicine confirmed that 45-year-old Juergen Willmann, one of their professors of radiology, passed away in a crash near Palo Alto on Monday.
Willmann, for reasons yet to be determined, lost control of his vehicle when he was heading east on Page Mill Road in the left lane. He struck a tree in the median between Coyote Hill and Deer Creek roads just outside Palo Alto city limits, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Art Montiel.
Montiel said that Willmann was unrestrained when his car drifted out of the lane and crashed just before 12:25 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Willmann was responsible for several academic breakthroughs at Stanford, including but not limited to targeted contrast microbubbles that helped detect early tumors and deliver targeted drugs in the body with the help of ultrasound imaging.
Willmann was well known for generously sharing his expertise with his students, creating an environment that felt much like a family.
Chair of the radiology department Sanjiv Sam Gambhir described Willmann as a larger-than-life kind of person.
His investigation into cancer detection and imaging technologies earned him the 2017 Distinguished Investigator Award from the Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research.
The university emphasized that while Willmann was an award-winning doctor, he was also a family man and a passionate musician. He played four instruments in addition to being an accomplished pianist and seriously considered becoming a professional musician before deciding to attend medical school.
Willmann was born in Germany and earned his medical degree there. He traveled back and forth between California and Zurich to train in diagnostic radiology at University of California San Francisco and complete his residency at the University of Zurich. His wife Amelie Lutz also completed her residency there; they met in med school.
In 2011 after they had completed a fellowship at Stanford, Willmann and Lutz decided to make a permanent move to the United States and take jobs at the university.
Willmann’s wife is currently an assistant professor of radiology as he was just before he was promoted to full professor.
“He was as spectacular a person as he was a scientist, he just radiated the magnetism,” fellow Stanford professor of radiology Brooke Jeffrey said. “He was never arrogant, never showed hubris, and was always interested in how you and your family were doing.”
Willmann is survived by his wife and their two children, Alexander and Juliana, as well as his parents, Elisabeth and Karl Willmann and sister Sabine Willmann.
Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.