Dr. John P. Dorst, 74, expert in pediatric radiology, dwarfism

April 21, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. John Phillips Dorst, an expert on dwarfism who headed pediatric radiology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, died Tuesday of a brain tumor at Brightwood Genesis Eldercare in Brooklandville. He was 74 and had lived in Columbia since 1972.

A prolific researcher who studied genetic bone disorders, he was director of pediatric radiology at the Hopkins Children's Center from 1966 to 1990. While there, he taught medical students, residents and fellows how to read children's X-rays. He retired in 1995.

"He was the world's expert on recognizing the numerous different forms of bone abnormalities that cause dwarfing," said Dr. Victor A. McKusick, Hopkins University Professor of Medical Genetics, who collaborated with Dr. Dorst on a book about birth defects. "John was a vital part of the Johns Hopkins team made up of medical specialists from many fields to treat the various problems of `little people.'

"His interest in patients didn't stop at their X-rays," Dr. McKusick said. "He attended annual conventions of the Little People of America and helped provide medical advice. He made many friends in that group."

Dr. Dorst wrote or was co-author of more than 50 scientific papers on subjects as diverse as lung cancer diagnosis, heart disease, Down syndrome and inherited bone malformations.

Dr. Jane E. Benson, assistant professor of radiology, said Dr. Dorst was "a tall, kindly man who could read your patient's X-rays like tarot cards and who could be found in the viewing room at all kinds of crazy hours, usually just when you needed him."

She continued: "I learned what fun it was to parse those mysterious shadows and nail the elusive diagnosis. He had a way of listening to you as you fumbled your way around a film, and made you feel like a colleague and encouraged you to keep talking until you finally said the right answer."

"Dr. Dorst was deeply committed to the children and spent time with the patients and their parents, and then studied the images in great detail," said Dr. Bob W. Gayler, director of Johns Hopkins Radiology Central. "He never lost sight of the patient behind the image."

Recalled as a courteous man with a sense of humor who delighted in puns and wordplay, he was an ardent devotee of opera and plays. An accomplished ballroom dancer and cross-country skier, he also sailed off the coast of Maine and in the Chesapeake Bay.

Born in Cincinnati, he was a graduate of the South Kent School in South Kent, Conn. He attended Princeton University and Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., before receiving a medical degree from the Cornell University School of Medicine in 1953. He was a fellow in pediatric radiology at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital.

During World War II, he enlisted in the Army and served as an engineer in France and in the Philippines. He was discharged with the rank of sergeant.

A former president of the Society for Pediatric Radiology, he earned numerous honors, including the Society for Pediatric Radiology Pioneer Award in 1994. The Johns Hopkins Department of Pediatrics gave him the Schaeffer Award in 1968.

In 1950, he married the former Marcia Kinney, who survives him.

A memorial service is being planned.

He is also survived by two sons, Dr. Stanley K. Dorst of Columbia, Mo.; John R. Dorst of Shingle Springs, Calif.; two daughters, Heather Dorst of Columbia, Md., and Miranda Saunders of Woodland Hills, Calif.; a stepbrother, Louis M. Prince of Cincinnati; a stepsister, Elizabeth P. Yungblut of Sarasota, Fla.; and six grandchildren.

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