Dr. Alan Churchill Woods Jr., 84, surgeon, Johns Hopkins professor

October 06, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Alan Churchill Woods Jr. - a retired Baltimore surgeon, former professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a colorful raconteur - died of complications from a stroke Monday at ManorCare Ruxton. He was 84 and lived in the Lakehurst section of North Baltimore.

Dr. Woods, who had lived on Wendover Road in Guilford for many years before moving to Lakehurst in 2000, was raised in Guilford.

He was a third-generation member of a prominent medical family. His father, Dr. Alan C. Woods Sr., had been chairman of the medical board of Hopkins Hospital and director of the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute. His paternal grandfather, Dr. Hiram Woods, was a pioneering Baltimore eye doctor.

"He had grown up in the Hopkins environment and was a superb general surgeon. He could do anything, and did it well," said Dr. Richard S. Ross, dean of the medical school from 1975 to 1990. "He had a somewhat gruff exterior but was a kind and solid physician whom patients loved."

Dr. Woods was a 1936 graduate of Gilman School and earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Princeton University in 1940.

He was a 1943 graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed a residency in surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in 1945. He served in the Army Medical Corps from 1946 until being discharged with the rank of captain in 1948.

He returned to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he finished a residency in surgery, studying under Dr. Alfred Blalock in 1949. He was also a Halsted Fellow in 1950.

Dr. Woods combined an irrepressible and outgoing personality with a booming voice that echoed through the hallways of Hopkins as he made his way to the operating room, patients or his surgical classes.

"He was colorful by the time we were in medical school, and he never let up," said Dr. Jack Handelsman, a retired surgeon. "He was very intelligent, and the profundity of his intelligence was frequently not appreciated."

He added, "Alan loved surgery and he never turned his back on his patients, always making sure they were well taken care of."

Dr. William G. Speed III, a retired Baltimore internist and medical school classmate, said, "He was truly a character and a very interesting person with lots of insight. And he was always a lot of fun to be around and didn't take life too seriously.

"He was one of the best surgeons at Hopkins during his time, and he certainly had gifted hands," he said.

He recalled Dr. Woods' appreciation of language and his straightforward manner.

"There was never any middle ground with Alan. He was a very expressive individual and had a broad grasp of the English language, especially the four-letter words, which he used frequently. It was part of the way he did things, and he didn't care whose company he was in, either," said Dr. Speed, laughing.

"I remember one time when I heard on the pager that he wanted all of the surgical residents to come to the operating room immediately," said Dr. William H.B. Howard, a Baltimore surgeon.

"He was standing over a patient where a large pool of blood was gathering in the incision. He said, `I want to show you what happens when a dumb [doctor] like me makes the wrong cut. I want you to see it and don't do it.' I was very impressed with the guy. He stood up and didn't try to disguise what he had done. It was a great lesson," he said.

Dr. Woods maintained a private surgical practice in a brownstone townhouse next to the Belvedere Hotel at 11 E. Chase St. for many years, later moving to the Broadway Building across from Johns Hopkins Hospital. He retired in 1988.

He was recalled as an extremely knowledgeable oenophile whose palate was so sophisticated that after a single sip of wine, he could name the wine, vineyard and its vintage.

He was a member of several dining clubs including BARF, an acronym for Baltimore Aristocrats of Rich Food.

For years, he enjoyed sailing and spending summers at a home he maintained on Nantucket. He was also an avid duck and goose hunter and fisherman.

He was a member of the Elkridge Club, the Hamilton Street Club and the Bachelors Cotillon.

His marriage to the former Louise H. Colie ended in divorce.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 28 in the lobby of the Phipps Building at Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 N. Wolfe St.

Dr. Woods is survived by his wife of 28 years, the former Julie Reiner; three sons, Alan C. Woods III of Baltimore, Runyon C. Woods of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Richard C.B. Woods of Timonium; a daughter, Louise W. Eaton of Elizabethtown, Ky.; a stepson, S. Page Nelson of Seattle; two stepdaughters, Holly Ghazey of Northampton, Mass., and Julie Brown of Montclair, N.J.; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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