Dr. Eric L. White, 81, was pediatrician 40 years, on staffs of several hospitals

February 07, 2000|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Dr. Eric L. White, a Baltimore pediatrician for 40 years, died of cardiac arrest Wednesday at Howard County General Hospital. He was 81.

In pursuit of a childhood dream, Dr. White moved from his native Kingston, Jamaica, to the United States in 1945 to study medicine.

It was the beginning of a long career that led to close relationships with patients. Some considered him family. One woman named her son for Dr. White, and asked him to be the boy's godfather.

Dr. White graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree from Howard University in Washington in 1949. In 1953, he earned his medical degree from Howard University Medical School and married the woman who would be his wife for the next 47 years, Edgar "Tommi" Tucker.

After working as an intern at Harlem Hospital in New York from 1953 to 1954, Dr. White moved to Baltimore, where he began his residency in pediatrics at the old Provident Hospital and what now is University of Maryland Medical Center.

In 1957, he joined the Navy as chief of pediatrics at the Naval Hospital in Newport, R.I., for 18 months. He was a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserves from 1961 to 1963.

In 1961, Dr. White returned to Baltimore and opened a pediatric practice on Hilton Street in West Baltimore. He later expanded his practice to Garwyn Medical Center in Northwest Baltimore and Old Town Mall on the east side. He retired in 1996.

"He was loyal to his family, his friends and, most of all, to his patients," said his sister-in-law Elizabeth T. Bebbs of Richmond, Va. "Many times, when patients moved out of the city, mothers would bring their children back just to see him."

His patients remember him as a soft-spoken and warm physician.

"He was very concerned about his patients," said Lilly White, no relation, whose three children were Dr. White's patients. "When a baby was ill, he had no qualms about coming to the house and personally making sure that they made it through the difficulties. And not just the child. He was concerned about the mother as well."

Lilly White grew so fond of him that she asked him to be godfather to one of her sons.

"He delivered me," said Eric White, the doctor's godson, who was given his name. "He was basically like a surrogate father to me."

Dr. White served as a consultant to the Head Start program for the American Academy of Pediatrics and was chief of pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Resident Training Program at Provident Hospital.

He was on the staffs of Provident Hospital from 1959 to 1986, Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1970 to 1981 and Sinai Hospital from 1986 until his retirement.

From 1961 to 1972, he was an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland Hospital.

A private service was held Wednesday. Another service in Kingston is being planned.

In addition to his wife, Dr. White is survived by two daughters, Juli-Anna Shumake of Abingdon and Courtney M. White of Baltimore; two grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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