Dr. W. Leigh Thompson, 66, pioneer in ICUs, clinical pharmacology

February 19, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. W. Leigh Thompson, a former Johns Hopkins School of Medicine faculty member who was a pioneer in developing intensive care units and a leading clinical pharmacologist, died of pulmonary fibrosis Feb. 11 at a hospital in Charleston, S.C. He was 66.

Born in Charleston, he earned a degree in biology at the College of Charleston and a master's degree and a doctorate at the Medical University of South Carolina.

He earned his medical degree in 1965 from Johns Hopkins and remained at the hospital for his residency and several years of research. In the 1970s, he was an assistant professor of medicine, pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the School of Medicine. During his clinical training and faculty time at Hopkins, he initiated the hospital's first intensive care unit and developed hydroxyethyl starch for use in blood replacement.

"He was one of the most exciting, creative people I've ever met in my 25 years at Hopkins," said Dr. Myron "Mike" Weisfeldt, director of the Department of Medicine. "He was filled with ideas, creative ideas. He was known widely as the Electric Potato - he was always moving."

Dr. Thompson initially lived on the East Baltimore campus, then bought a home in Guilford.

"One of the fun things in life in Baltimore was eating crabs," said his wife of 48 years, the former Maurice Eugenie Horne, who taught at Dulaney High School. "It was an easy transition from Charleston, where we eat shrimp and rice and worship our ancestors."

After leaving Hopkins, Dr. Thompson taught at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. In 1982, he joined Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis as its chief scientific officer and led development of insulin through genetic engineering.

In 1996, he joined the board of Inspire, a biopharmaceutical firm in Durham, N.C. He was the board's chairman at his death.

In 2003, he was elected to the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars and was named its Distinguished Medical Alumnus. The same year, the Food and Drug Administration awarded Dr. Thompson its commissioner's Special Citation for Multiple Innovative Contributions to Public Health and Well Being.

Services were held Thursday in Charleston.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a daughter, Mary Linton Peters of Cambridge, Mass.

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