Dr. Maxie T. Collier, ex-city health commissioner

April 23, 1994|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

Dr. Maxie T. Collier, a former Baltimore City health commissioner and an early champion of needle-exchange programs to prevent the spread of the virus that causes AIDS among intravenous drug abusers, died early yesterday of a massive heart attack at his home in Northwest Baltimore. He was 49.

His death came on the day of a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party he had planned for his parents, Pearlie May and James R. Collier, said Catherine Pugh, a family friend.

"I will remember Maxie as a brilliant psychiatrist and a caring and compassionate public health official," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday in a statement.

"It was in discussions with Maxie that I first heard the strongest critique of the war on drugs and an outline of a sensible alternative strategy," the mayor said.

During his tenure from 1987 to 1990 as the city's first African-American health commissioner, Dr. Collier started a program to prevent adolescent pregnancy and was an early supporter, along with Mr. Schmoke, of a needle-exchange program for drug users to prevent the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Last month, the Maryland legislature enacted a bill allowing a pilot program to give clean needles to drug abusers in Baltimore.

"Back in 1989, he was advocating for the needle exchange. I think a lot of efforts coming to fruition now were due in large part to the courageous public health effort on his part," said David Vlahov, associate professor for epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, who advised Dr. Collier on HIV infection among intravenous drug abusers.

As assistant health commissioner for three years, Dr. Collier also was instrumental in obtaining a $6.3 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund programs for the chronically mentally ill, many of whom were homeless, said a health department spokeswoman.

After leaving the health department, Dr. Collier had a private psychiatric practice and from 1991 to 1993, he restructured outpatient psychiatric services at Liberty Medical Center in Northwest Baltimore.

Dr. Reed Winston, vice president of medical affairs at Liberty, said the outpatient center "became a very outstanding facility for behavioral disorders. Dr. Collier brought in many new techniques and providers of medical care to the Baltimore area."

Dr. Winston said Dr. Collier was a "very compassionate" psychiatrist who worked particularly well with young patients trying to cope with depression, anger and family related problems.

A native of Waverly, Tenn., Dr. Collier graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1967 and the University of Maryland medical school in 1978.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Bethel AME Church, 1300 Druid Hill Ave. in Baltimore. The visiting hour will begin at 10:30 a.m.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Dr. Katherine Collier, a dentist; and eight children, Letonya of New York City, and Maxie, Mar-yoi, twins LeMoyia and Zaitrarrio, Shartriya, Tara and Nonya, all of Baltimore; two brothers, James Ronnier Collier of Nashville, Tenn. and Gerald Collier of Indianapolis; and a sister, Jeannine Matthews of Baltimore.

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