Doctor Prescribes Principles For Today's Physicians

November 11, 1990|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

BALTIMORE - Theodore E. Woodward, M.D., is an old-fashioned doctor.

"I believe a doctor should be well-trained, interested and dedicated in what he is doing," he said. "If he is well-trained and well-rounded, he'll order fewer tests and give fewer drugs."

Woodward's own method is simple: Take a complete history of the patient, listen to him and do a thorough examination, then order only those tests necessary to confirm the problem the doctor suspects. In an age of technology and materialism, the 76-year-old Westminster native stubbornly clings to his principles.

"In the conduct of our lives, we should base it on the principles of love for family and devoted service for the welfare of others," he said.

For more than 40 years, Woodward has tried to instill those same ideals in thousands of medical students who passed through the doors of the University of Maryland Medical School.

Woodward started out in 1946 as an assistant professor of medicine at the school and hospital, later becoming chairman of the Department of Medicine.

When he retired in 1981, the university honored him by setting up, in 1984, the Theodore E. Woodward Endowed Chair in Medicine.

"The University of Maryland is mainly state-supported," Woodward explained. "When I retired -- and this is unique -- subscriptions were raised from other doctors, friends, patients -- about a million dollars -- to support the Theodore E. Woodward-named chair and pay that salary to the man who succeeded me."

The endowed chair is just one of many honors bestowed upon this world-renowned man of medicine who originally planned to follow in his father's footsteps as a small-town physician in Carroll County.

"Early on, I had planned to come to Westminster to practice. But I needed more training, and the war came in, and I went into the Army in January 1941," he said.

During his four years in the Army, most of it spent overseas in the tropics, Woodward's ideas and interests changed. He plunged into the study of infectious diseases, especially typhus and typhoid fever.

Upon his discharge, Woodward returned to Baltimore and started a practice, but also spent time at Walter Reed Medical Center in Chevy Chase, working with new drugs called antibiotics that were just being developed.

"In 1948, one of the drug companies sent an antibiotic down for study, chloramphenical," he said. "I was asked if I'd go as clinician to Malaya, and we found the first cure ever of typhus fever."

The researchers involved in developing the "miracle cure" were nominated for a Nobel Prize, though they didn't win.

Woodward, while in Malaya, also accidentally discovered that chloramphenical cured typhoid as well, and later, Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Once back in Baltimore, the doctor returned to his beloved teaching, along with continued work for the military in research on infectious diseases as a member of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, of which he has been president since 1980.

His decades of work with the epidemiological board earned him, last spring, the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service.

The same work also got him the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, from Japan last summer. Woodward has been a member of the U.S.-Japan Cooperative Medical Science Program since its inception in 1965.

Although Woodward is technically retired, he maintains an office at the University of Maryland, still teaches and sees a few patients.

On the side he writes. He has written a 50-year history of the epidemiological board and has just completed a book, "Carroll County Physicians of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century," to be published this year by the Carroll County Historical Society.

He also has written numerous articles for medical journals and textbooks, as well as speeches he has given around the world.

Despite his important medical work, he offered a surprising answer when asked to pinpoint his foremost achievement.

"Parent," he said emphatically. "I think that's the most important thing any of us can do."

Being a good husband to his wife, Celeste, a good father to his three children -- Bill, Craig and Celeste (doctors all) -- and a good grandfather to his nine grandchildren is what matters most to Woodward.

"When I'm away, I'm away; when I'm home, I'm home," he said. "I taught my kids how to ride a bike, swim, play baseball. I found time to do that."

Although Woodward lives in the Roland Park section of Baltimore, he maintains close ties to Carroll County, which he still calls home.

Son Bill lives on the 230-acre Roop's Mill farm on Old Taneytown Pike, which came into the family when Woodward's grandfather, also a doctor, married Martha Jane Roop in 1875.

Woodward proudly notes that the house, built in 1805, is on the Maryland and National Historical Trusts. On many Sundays, he can be found wandering the farm with his black Scottie, Pudding.

He also still owns the Woodward family home on Park Avenue in Westminster and does his banking through Carroll County Bank and Trust Co.

Woodward enjoys coming home to Carroll for other things, too.

"I like to sit and think up here," he said. "I like to take photographs -- I'm a pretty good photographer. And the family is a good outlet, and friendships."

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