Dr. Felix P. Heald, 82, founded UM program in adolescent medicine

August 16, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Dr. Felix Pierpont Heald, who established the adolescent medicine program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and directed the program for two decades, died Tuesday during heart surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Annapolis resident was 82.

A pioneer in what was a new field when was he was starting out in medicine in the 1950s, Dr. Heald once noted that teenagers were a unique and often neglected group - one with special medical needs that often requires psychological attention as well.

He spent his career developing programs in the new specialty - at Children's Hospital in Washington in the 1960s and at University of Maryland in 1970 - and conducted extensive research into adolescent growth and nutrition.

"Everyone knew about Dr. Felix Heald," said Dr. Ligia Peralta, who was Dr. Heald's last fellow at the medical school and now heads the division he created. "We all knew him as the father of adolescent medicine, so the field of adolescent medicine has lost a pioneer."

Dr. Heald was also a passionate researcher who encouraged his fellows, some who came from fields such as social work and nutrition, to follow cutting-edge research and be creative in their treatment, Dr. Peralta said.

"He was a very special person who could combine teaching with humor and advocacy," she said.

After his retirement in 1990, Dr. Heald remained active in the careers of his fellows and was around for major events in their professional lives, whether it be groundbreaking research or new grants or programs, she said.

Dr. John Sadler, a nephrologist who worked with Dr. Heald at University of Maryland and also served as his personal physician, described Dr. Heald as "a man of considerable accomplishment and great wisdom."

"He was just a fine teacher and a very knowledgeable person," Dr. Sadler said.

Born in Philadelphia, Dr. Heald received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was among the first trainees in the country's first adolescent clinic at Boston Children's Hospital before his work in Washington and in Baltimore.

He authored dozens of articles and several books on topics such as adolescent nutrition, gynecology and medical care, and also testified in court and before political bodies about issues related to the field.

He received local and national honors recognizing his service, authority and expertise; among them was the Society of Adolescent Medicine's Outstanding Achievement Award in Adolescent Medicine in 1986.

But despite demands on his time, he always was home for dinner and would ask his five children to weigh in on various topics - ranging from a discussion of kindergarten for the youngest to political issues for the oldest - at the table.

"I think he was trying to inspire us to think and to have our own voice ... and to know that our voice counted," said his daughter Jennifer Heald of Westport, Mass.

Her father later gave her the dining room table. "It mattered to be part of a family where ideas were shared," she said.

To them, she said, he was just "Dad," a funny and sharp man who "lived his values" instead of preaching them.

Dr. Heald's first wife, the former Jean Truslow, died in 1997 after 49 years of marriage. In 1998, he married Mary Sutton, who survives him.

Dr. Heald loved to fish and enjoyed his time on the water, his daughter said. He also worked with the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland.

Services were held Saturday at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Dr. Heald is survived by a son, Chris Heald of North Bethesda; three other daughters, Anne Heald of Falls Church, Va., Deborah Hougland of College Park and Wendy Stevens of Nashville, Tenn.; a stepson, Jonathan Sutton Jr. of Londonderry, Vt.; a stepdaughter, Parker Sutton of Baltimore; and eight grandchildren.

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