Dr. R. Carmichael Tilghman, 95, Hopkins internist

September 26, 1999|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. R. Carmichael Tilghman, a compassionate internist at Johns Hopkins Hospital known for his work with pregnant women suffering from heart disease, died of cancer Thursday at Wye House, his Talbot County residence. A member of a long-established Eastern Shore family, Dr. Tilghman was 95.

One of Hopkins' best-known physicians and faculty members for nearly 50 years, he was regarded as a gifted diagnostician and was known for his keen ethics, optimism and gracious manner.

"He was a magnificent Maryland gentleman," said Dr. Richard S. Ross, dean emeritus of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "He was a naturally hospitable person who befriended me and extended his hospitality. By providing a warm reception, he contributed to the culture of [the hospital]."

Dr. Tilghman, who knew a few of the hospital's founding physicians, provided students with a vibrant sense of Hopkins history. His formal association with the institution began in 1921, when he enrolled as a freshman at the Homewood campus in North Baltimore.

As a 6-year-old, he sailed into Baltimore harbor aboard a steamboat. Standing on the upper deck with his grandmother, he asked about a domed building in the distance. She told him that it was Hopkins, "the hospital where they do miracles."

During World War II, too old for the draft at age 38, he volunteered for overseas service as part of a Hopkins medical unit. He often recalled the night of April 10, 1942, when the unit left Baltimore.

"It was one of those wonderfully penetrating days, so damp, so drizzling," he said in a 1992 interview. "There was a huge crowd at [Penn] Station. Nearly everyone went down to the platforms."

Dr. Tilghman eventually sailed across the Pacific Ocean and helped establish hospitals on the Fiji Islands and later in Assam, India. He took many pictures of the events, in keeping with his lifelong interest in photography.

In 1946, he resumed private practice at an office on Eager Street while teaching on the Hopkins faculty.

"He emphasized that [residents] must be prepared to give the patient time, plenty of time to talk," recalled Dr. Victor A. McKusick, university professor of medical genetics and former chair of medicine at Hopkins.

Dr. Tilghman was a scion of a family that settled on the Eastern Shore in the 17th century, where he had deep affection for the people, gentle creeks and fields. Born in Centreville, the son of Charles Carroll Tilghman and the former Helen Goldsborough, he graduated from Centreville High School. After graduating from the Johns Hopkins University, he received his medical degree in 1932 from the Hopkins School of Medicine.

He held numerous posts at Hopkins, including associate professor of medicine and associate dean of the medical faculty. From 1970 to 1974, he was editor of the Johns Hopkins Medical Journal.

In 1980 he was named president of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, a group founded to study lung disease. He served as secretary-general of the American College of Physicians from 1968 to 1974.

He was a member of the Baltimore Medical Reunion, a group of Hopkins and University of Maryland physicians who met four times yearly for dinner. Dr. Tilghman was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Society of the Cincinnati, the Society of Colonial Wars, Preservation Maryland and the American Wing of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

In 1945, he wed the former Mary Donnell Singer, a descendant of Francis Scott Key.

After Dr. Tilghman's retirement, he and his wife spent much time restoring Wye House, a residence that has been in his wife's family for 11 generations. The property is of historic interest because it is where Frederick Douglass was enslaved before he escaped in 1838 and became a prominent abolitionist.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St. Dr. Tilghman was an active member of the Episcopal church.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Tilghman is survived by two sons, Richard C. Tilghman Jr. and John Addison Singer Tilghman, both of Ruxton; two daughters, Joanna Lloyd Tilghman of Cambridge and Helen Goldsborough Tilghman Gordon of Charlottesville, Va.; and six grandchildren.

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