Dr. W. Gordon Walker, 78, kidney-disease expert

October 09, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

DR. WALKER — Dr. W. Gordon Walker, an internationally known expert on kidney disease who was called the "father" of renal dialysis in Maryland, died Tuesday of pulmonary fibrosis at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 78 and lived in Guilford.

Dr. Walker - who was still seeing patients until a month ago - established in 1970 the renal division at Good Samaritan Hospital, a program affiliated with Johns Hopkins Hospital. He served as the program's director until 1992.

During his tenure as director of nephrology, the hospital's renal program grew to be the largest hospital-based, not-for-profit dialysis program in the state. He also set up the first dialysis center in the region, in 1958, at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Walker was remembered yesterday for his "quiet Southern manner," his sense of humor and his abilities as a "very strong leader and teacher."

"Gordon was probably the most knowledgeable person I ever worked with," said Dr. Richard S. Ross, former dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who wrote several papers with him. "He knew so many things beyond medicine, such as math and nuclear physics. He was also a very good doctor who loved his work and his patients."

Born and raised in Lena, La., he was the son of a farmer and the grandson of a country doctor. After graduating from high school, he served in the Navy Medical Corps in the waning days of World War II.

He attended Louisiana College and Louisiana State University and earned his medical degree in 1952 from the Tulane University School of Medicine.

Dr. Walker came to Baltimore in 1953 as an assistant resident in medicine with the Osler Medical Service at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He also trained at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

He established the renal division in 1957 in the department of medicine at Hopkins, and in 1968 was named professor of medicine at the medical school.

At Hopkins, he also directed the general clinical research center - the first such center to win support from a federally funded program.

His Committee on Clinical Investigation, designed to protect the rights and safety of patients, was the first at Hopkins and was recognized by the National Institutes of Health. NIH later required that universities receiving government support for clinical research establish similar committees.

Dr. Walker also played a key role in promoting state legislation that established quality standards and covered costs for dialysis centers operating in the state. He also pushed for legislative initiatives that helped create the first Anatomical Gift Act, which made it possible to donate kidneys for transplantation.

His research interests included the effects of hypertension and diabetes on African-Americans who developed end-stage kidney disease requiring dialysis. He developed a program that combined research, patient education, nutrition and safety.

"Dr. Walker was one of my mentors and will always have a special place in my heart," said Dr. Luis Gimenez, director of renal medicine at Good Samaritan. "I found him to be an outstanding physician, educator and scholar. He had an incredible knack for explaining complex medical matters."

Since 1999, Dr. Walker had been a member of the board of directors of Good Samaritan Hospital and three years ago was appointed to the board of the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation.

He was a consulting editor for the American Journal of Medicine and Principles and Practices of Medicine.

Dr. Walker was married for 50 years to his college sweetheart, the former Betty Couch, a real estate agent. She died in 1997.

He was an avid golfer and enjoyed spending time at a second home in Wintergreen, Va.

Dr. Walker was a longtime member and former deacon and head of the stewardship committee at University Baptist Church, 3501 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Dr. Walker is survived by two sons, W. Gordon Walker Jr. of Los Gatos, Calif., and Marshall Walker of Oxford, England; two daughters, Martha Walker of Staunton, Va., and Carla Walker of Fredericksburg, Va.; and three grandchildren.

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