Georgia’s first pediatric endocrinologist loved Broadway

For Georgia children living with a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was one doctor: Robert Schultz. He was the first pediatric endocrinologist in the state, and his practice quickly grew to the largest in the Southeast.

“When he was started, there was nobody in the state, period,” his wife, Karen Schultz, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He was a pioneer. We didn’t know if it was going to work.”

After completing medical school in New York, Robert Schultz moved to Atlanta in 1978 to begin the diabetes program at Scottish Rite hospital. Five years later, a second doctor joined the practice, and 40 years later, the same practice is part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Dr. Schultz had a passion for treating children and a kind calmness when helping worried parents navigate life with a chronic disease. He developed close relationships with patients, even after they’d outgrown his pediatrics office. Short breaks from his practice were often spent serving at a summer camp for children with diabetes. But outside of his busy medical practice, Schultz found time for his other passion: theater. He performed in various productions, with roles on stage and off.

“He spent his days at work and his evenings preparing music and being in shows,” daughter Jaime Schwartz said. “He knew what he loved and that’s what he pursued.”

On Friday, three weeks after being diagnosed with liver cancer, Schultz died at his Cobb County home surrounded by his family. He was 69.

Schultz had announced several weeks ago that he planned to retire May 12, his family said. He wouldn’t be treating patients, but he was already planning his next step. He would have turned 70 in June, and plans were already underway for a fall family trip with all three grown children and six grandchildren.

“He was working full time two weeks ago,” Karen Schultz said Sunday.

But he was exhausted following his diagnosis and switched to half-days. While hospitalized a few days earlier this month, the Schultz family learned there was no way to treat the cancer. His disease quickly took its toll.

“He had so many plans. He had worked his whole life to give back to people,” Schwartz said. “He had so much to teach people, and he wanted to give back even more.”

Schultz performed in countless theater productions, both on stage acting and playing the piano and offstage directing. He founded the Atlanta Broadway Choir, which performs around the state, including at many senior adult communities.

Six days before Schultz’s death, the choir he founded arrived at his home for a surprise performance.

“We have one more performance this season, and it’s for you,” a choir member told Schultz.

Weak from illness, Schultz sat in a wheelchair as the choir sang to him. Then, he joined them in singing and conducted after his wife handed him his baton. Together, the choir and Schultz sang “New York, New York,” “Hello, Dolly,” “The Impossible Dream,” and other classics for 40 minutes.

“It was just this moment when he was himself again,” Schwartz said.

Schultz told his choir friends he planned to beat his illness and thanked them for their performance.

“I just can’t say enough about what you people mean to me,” he said in a quiet voice. “You are a wonderful, wonderful group of people and I love every one of you.”

For the final two songs, Schultz’s grandchildren and other family members joined in with the choir singing.

“Tomorrow, tomorrow. I love you, tomorrow. You’re only a day away.”

In addition to his wife and daughter Schwartz, Schultz is survived by daughter Kim Velevis and son Brian Schultz and their spouses; grandchildren Asher, Max, Jordan, Hailey, Maya and Eden; his mother, Millie Schultz; and siblings Jeff Schultz and Barbara Cohen.

A graveside service will be held Monday at 11:30 a.m. at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs. Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Weinstein Hospice and Camp Kudzu, for children with diabetes.

“They just don’t make them like him anymore,” Karen Schultz said. “Honest to goodness, he was one of a kind.”

Sign the online guestbook for Dr. Robert Schultz.

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