Dr. Perry G.M. Austin Jr., 81, worked at veterans hospital

February 16, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Dr. Perry G.M. Austin Jr., who devoted much of his nearly five-decade career to the health care of veterans, died of complications from pneumonia Thursday at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. He was 81 and a resident of Towson.

Dr. Austin advocated for veterans' health treatment and the desegregation of hospital admissions. He received many honors during his career, including a citation for outstanding services from the Disabled American Veterans for 1984-1985.

"He was very interested in raising the standards of medical care for veterans who were in the hospital and those who came through the outpatient clinic," said Sally Austin, his wife of 50 years. "He was devoted to helping veterans get benefits that Congress had decreed they were eligible for."

"He derived a lot of his energy from his ability to help people," said his son, Peter E. Austin of New York City.

A California native, he graduated from Princeton University in 1944 and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City in 1947. He served an internship from 1947 to 1949 at Los Angeles County General Hospital.

From 1949 to 1951, he was a research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University, studying syphilis at the medical school.

In 1951, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force Medical Corps and was posted to March Air Force Base in Riverside, Calif., where he worked as chief of medicine during the last years of the Korean War. In 1953, he received an honorable discharge with the rank of captain.

Within weeks, he went to Ankara, Turkey, to marry Sally Evans, the daughter of his former commanding officer, in a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy. His father, the Rev. G.M. Austin, came from Long Beach, Calif., to perform the ceremony.

The couple moved to Baltimore, where Dr. Austin completed a residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins in 1957.

That year, when the Veterans Administration was working to eliminate tuberculosis in Baltimore, he joined the Loch Raven VA Hospital. He worked there for more than 30 years, many of which he spent as chief of outpatient services.

In the 1980s, he divided his time between Loch Raven and the Federal Building. He saw patients at the federal offices, all of them veterans and retirees.

He served on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1957 until 1987. After that, he was an instructor for several years at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

He retired in 1996 from federal employment.

His wife recalled that in retirement, he missed patients.

"He always said he learned as much from patients as they learned from him. With all the people he touched over 50 years, he died a very rich man," she said.

He was a longtime member of Sigma Xi, a scientific research society.

In later years, he became interested in economics, finance and investment. He enjoyed reading novels and biographies, and had a lifelong love of music.

"He had a great aesthetic sense," his son said.

As a boy, he was an avid cellist. He also sang in St. Luke's Choristers, of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Long Beach, Calif. The chorus sang in the background for several MGM movies of the 1930s.

He enjoyed family trips to California.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, 130 W. Seminary Ave., Lutherville, where he was a member.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by two other sons, Dr. David Austin of San Diego and Dr. Christopher Austin of Potomac; a sister, Camilla W. Andrews of Walnut Creek, Calif.; and six granddaughters.

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