Dr. John A. Grant, 71, public health officer

April 15, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. John A. Grant, a pediatrician who gave up a career in medical education and research to become a public health officer for Kent and Caroline counties, died of cancer Monday at Chester River Hospital Center in Chestertown. He was 71.

"He had a passion for public health and a passion for people who needed help. He was always referred to by his fellow public health officers as `the dean,'" said Becky S. Loukides, acting health officer for Kent and deputy officer in Caroline.

Dr. Grant was born and raised in Hanover, Pa., the son of a dentist.

"I think I always wanted to be a doctor," he told Dateline DHMH, a publication of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, at his retirement last year. "As a child, I greatly admired our family doctor and wanted to be like him."

Dr. Grant was a graduate of Mercersburg Academy and earned a bachelor's degree from Gettysburg College in 1953. He was a 1957 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and served his internship at the old Church Home and Hospital in Baltimore.

He also completed a residency in pediatrics in 1962 at the University of Maryland hospital and earned a master's degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins University in 1969.

Dr. Grant maintained a pediatrics practice in Hanover, Pa., from 1962 to 1967, when he moved to Baltimore and became chief of the state health department's School Section, Division of Maternal and Child Health.

In 1970, he joined the pediatrics faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He also was an associate professor in the department of population and family health at Hopkins' School of Public Health.

Interested in developmental pediatrics, Dr. Grant also wrote widely on adolescent rape and pregnancy, child health screening and program evaluations.

Noting the strains of teaching and research, Dr. Grant accepted in 1972 the post of health officer for Kent County. In 1977, Caroline County was added to his responsibilities.

"He liked the hands-on approach, and his goal in life was to improve child care. That's why he went into public health," said Maryland Miles Massey, a nurse who retired in 1998 as Kent County deputy health officer.

Dr. Grant formed a "think tank" in the basement of a county building with other health workers to hammer out new approaches and solutions to health issues, Mrs. Massey said.

In 1990, Dr. Grant unveiled a program in Caroline, modeled on a Planned Parenthood effort in Denver, that paid teen-age girls who had been pregnant before a dollar a day not to get pregnant again.

He told the county commissioners that 87 teens had had babies over the previous four years, and an untold number of others had pregnancies ended by abortion or miscarriage. And one in three become pregnant again, he said.

"It is not an inner-city black phenomenon. It's a white rural phenomenon as well and seems to be spread throughout this county," Dr. Grant told The Sun.

He also introduced an infant immunization program -- To Reach All Children.

The names of newborns were put on a birth registry, and mothers were given a booklet of coupons redeemable for required immunizations. On the back of each coupon was a postcard mailer for the doctor to send to the health department to update a child's records.

Dr. Grant was a founder of the Kent Hospice Foundation.

He also served as a role model for those thinking of a career in public health, Mrs. Massey said

Dr. Grant, who lived in Chestertown, enjoyed fishing, hunting and woodcarving. He also collected LGB model trains, especially German steam engines and cars.

"He was a laid-back man with a keen intelligence and sense of humor," Mrs. Massey said. "He liked wearing the Eastern Shore uniform of sleeveless shirts, khaki pants and Docksiders. He never wore a tie, but kept a tie and blazer should he need it. He kind of looked like Columbo."

Services are private.

Dr. Grant is survived by his wife of 26 years, the former Betty Ann Holliday; two sons, Albert Cadwell Grant of Monterey, Calif., and Allen Cadwell Grant of Baton Rouge, La.; a brother, William Adams Grant of Honolulu; and two grandsons. His marriage to the former Jane Cadwell ended in divorce.

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