Dr. Richard J. Schindler, MD
Dr. Richard (Dick) J. Schindler was a family physician in Austin for more than forty years. A committed and caring practitioner of medicine, his desire to help and improve the lives of people in his community made lasting impacts not only in Austin, but across Minnesota and in other countries, as well.
Dick graduated from North Dakota State University in 1964, started medical school at the University of North Dakota, and graduated from the University of Iowa Medical School with a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. After completing a tour of military service as a medical officer, Dick joined the Austin Medical Clinic in 1972, where he practiced medicine until he retired.
In the course of his service as a community doctor, Dick delivered more than 4,000 babies, and then in the course of time delivered some of their babies, in turn. A visionary leader in local medicine, Dick established the staff medical education program at the Austin hospital, guiding it for more than forty years. He also trained EMTs for the local ambulance services, insuring a better quality of first-responder medical care for area residents, and he established The Bridge, a public health clinic. He was an adjunct faculty member of both the University of Minnesota and Mayo Medical Schools, eventually teaching more than 300 medical students. Never content to simply help people when they came to him, Dick made numerous trips to Haiti for medical missions, thereby improving the lives of people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Dick’s contributions to his community were never limited to his work as a doctor. An enthusiastic and dedicated sportsman, he loved running and bicycling and wanted to make those pursuits available to others. He established the mountain biking team for Austin students in grades 7-12, and personally helped to build the practice trail. He was instrumental in setting up Bike Helmet Day in Austin so that children could have their bikes checked out and buy a helmet for only $5.00. An avid skier, he founded a program at the Hormel Nature Center to enable children could rent cross-country skis for just $1.00. A great believer in improving the educational experiences of students, he purchased a computer for Pacelli High School in the early 1970s, the first one they ever had. He served on the YMCA Board and the Minnesota Opera Board, an art form that he deeply loved.
A thorough professional, Dick served on the medical center’s Ethics Committee and was the only family practice physician on the Minnesota State Ob-Gyn board. He also served on the faculty of the National American Heart Association. Dick’s philanthropic and medical efforts drew widespread recognition, though that was never his focus. He was awarded the Minnesota Family Physician of the Year and was a runner-up for National Family Physician of the Year.
Reflecting on his choices of a career, Dick wrote, “I have always loved working and talking with people of all types, so I had thoughts of teaching, mission work, research, medicine. I took the last because I have always been fascinated by the human body and how it works. Every branch of medicine is interesting, but I ended up choosing family medicine because I could dabble in a lot of different aspects of medicine and care. What makes every day great is getting up and wondering what new thing I can do or see or learn today.” Dick’s passion for life and learning was the foundation of his desire to spread to make other people’s lives better, and he never stopped working for that goal. He and his wife of 50 years, Belita Softing Schindler, made Austin a better community in innumerable ways.
Do you know someone that has made an impact on the City of Austin? Submit a Pillars of the City nomination for next year!