Pocketknife on Airplane Saved Lives

Small pocketknives are still banned from flights, in spite of good reason to think that they do not pose a security risk. So if a similar emergency arose now, a Julius Schachter today would not be able to take out his pocketknife and save lives.

(p. A22) Julius Schachter, known as Julie, lived much of the year in Germany. He had flown to the Bay Area in November [2020] for Thanksgiving.

His most significant work involved the chlamydia-related disease trachoma, an eye infection that until 1990 was one of the world’s leading infectious causes of blindness. He established the effectiveness of treating it with the mass distribution of the oral antibiotic azithromycin (until then, the disease was treated topically), said Dr. Thomas M. Lietman, director of the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology at U.C.S.F. and a longtime colleague of Dr. Schachter’s.

“Everyone in health care is taught that nonspecific antibiotic use is forbidden,” Dr. Lietman said. But in areas where trachoma was regularly found, he added, it was too difficult to determine who exactly was infected. “Julie’s leap was to consider treating the entire community, whether they were infected or not.”

It is expected that trachoma will be eliminated as a public health concern by 2030, thanks in large part to Dr. Schachter.

. . .

Dr. Schachter traveled constantly for work and often took his family on international trips, Sara Schachter, a veterinarian, said. She recalled a harrowing incident in 1986, when she and her brother and father were aboard a flight from Rome to Athens and a bomb exploded. Four passengers died after being sucked out of a hole created by the blast. Some oxygen masks were jammed and failed to fall; a calm Dr. Schachter used a pocketknife to pry them loose for fellow passengers.

. . .

Dr. Schachter continued to work while hospitalized with Covid-19. Dr. Lietman recounted a conversation they had on the day his friend was being moved to the intensive care unit.

“I’ve got to get out of here,” Dr. Schachter said. “I’ve got to finish these four manuscripts.”

For the full obituary, see:

Katie Hafner. “Julius Schachter, 84.” The New York Times (Saturday, January 9, 2021): A22.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Jan. 8, 2021, and has the title “Julius Schachter, Leading Expert on Chlamydia, Dies at 84.”)

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