Dr. Sandra M. Walden, 42, pulmonary care specialist

April 28, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

Dr. Sandra M. Walden, who devoted her medical career to caring for adults who have lung disease, died of lung cancer Friday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 42.

In her research, her private practice and her work as founding director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Walden sought to improve the quality of life for her lung disease patients.

A 1979 graduate of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, she began her career with an internship at Baltimore City Hospitals (now Johns Hopkins Bayview Center). She joined the Hopkins faculty in 1985 and specialized in pulmonary care.

After helping many of her patients face death with dignity, she ultimately would walk in their shoes, said friends, family and colleagues yesterday.

Dr. Walden fell ill three years ago and, in early 1994, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her illness was unusual because she was not a smoker, and ironic because in 10 years at Hopkins she had made a name for herself among lung disease specialists, friends said.

"She experienced many of the medical difficulties and problems many of her patients go through," said her husband, Dr. Sidney Otto Gottlieb, a cardiologist who practices at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. They met in medical school and were together 21 years. "She gave so much of her own emotions with those patients and families. That's what she prided herself in."

Dr. Walden stopped working in January 1995 to spend her final months with her husband and three sons and pursue treatment for her illness, but remained active in a variety of projects.

She threw parties and read storybooks as a second-grade class mother at Boy's Latin School. She continued to pursue her passion for skiing during family trips, even when she barely had strength to walk a flight of stairs, her husband said.

She also continued studying to maintain her medical license, participated in research as a patient, and interviewed candidates for admission to the medical school, colleagues said.

She submitted gracefully to countless exams by Hopkins doctors who had been her students -- ever the teacher. "They would be nervous because she was on the faculty," her husband said, "but she would recite her medical history in a way that would make their job easier and make them look good."

She will be remembered at the hospital as a compassionate and giving physician who was "practicing medicine for all the right reasons," said Dr. Beryl Rosenstein, director of the hospital's Cystic Fibrosis Center.

The clinic she developed treats patients who grew up with cystic fibrosis. Only in recent years, with improvements in care, have patients begun surviving into their 20s and 30s, he said.

Dr. Walden stepped in to fill the need for adult care. The clinic serves about 100 patients for whom no cure exists, and she often gave long, uncompensated hours to advise them and assist their families, Dr. Rosenstein said.

At their Baltimore home yesterday, as friends stopped by to offer condolences, her eldest son, Alexander Michael Gottlieb, 13, said, "Mom treated all of her patients the same: She gave them her best."

Dr. Walden also continued to maintain the 70-member roster of "Lady Docs," a social club she founded five years ago with friends to bring together Baltimore women who are doctors, said a co-founder, surgeon Lori Gottlieb (no relation). She participated in their wine-and-cheese meetings into this month, she said.

"She gave a piece of herself to everyone," Dr. Gottlieb said. "I saw one of her sons at the hospital the other day, when he was visiting her, and he said, 'I counted nine people today who thought Mom was their best friend.' "

Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 6010 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by two other sons, Andrew Frederick Gottlieb and Daniel Philip Gottlieb; her parents, Robert and Marianne Walden of Georgia; a sister, Susan Cohn of South Carolina; and a brother, David Walden of New York City.

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