Dr. John D. Stafford, 66, started emergency medical radio system

April 02, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. John D. Stafford, who established an emergency medical radio system for accident victims in the 1970s and was later a Maryland deputy health secretary, died of complications from diabetes March 26 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The White Marsh resident was 66.

Born in Altoona, Pa., he was a 1968 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He completed his medical internship in the Army and while at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, he worked with patients burned in the Vietnam War. He then completed an anesthesiology residency at Baltimore City Hospitals and earned a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Dr. Stafford became chief of communicable diseases and epidemiology for the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before being named director of a new program, Emergency Medical Services Development. He set up a network that allowed ambulance crews at the scene of an accident or medical emergency to speak to hospital physicians and staff - and hired his own radio engineers and bought his own equipment to save on fees.

"Communication between those at accident scenes and hospitals had been so erratic and it was like dealing with two cans and a string," said George Pelletier, a friend and his former administrative assistant. "His legacy to the state was the development of a communication system for accident situations."

In 1980 Dr. Stafford moved to Pennsylvania to set up a medical helicopter system for the Allentown region. Two years later, he became the emergency medical director for the state of Arizona.

When he returned to Maryland in the mid-1980s, he was named state aeromedical director for the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. When the state issued bids for new Medevac helicopters, Dr. Stafford wrote the guidelines for the medical equipment they carried.

"He was so earnest and was totally dedicated to public health," said Adele Wilzack, a former state health secretary who is president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland. "Any issue, no matter how small, all got the same degree of his passion and attention."

In June 1989 he became one of the state's three deputy health secretaries. He supervised programs dealing with public health, drug and alcohol abuse, and AIDS. He also helped downsize the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills.

"He was intense about doing the job right. He had a high sense of integrity," said James M. Faulkner, personnel officer for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "He always had a couple of jobs going at the same time. He was very industrious."

Dr. Stafford then became the medical director of Baltimore Recovery Center, a homeless center in West Baltimore. In 2000 he worked with the state's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and revised medical guidelines for prisoners. At his death, he was a consultant to the state's Motor Vehicle Administration medical department and counseled those convicted of drunken driving.

Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Garrison Forest Cemetery on Garrison Forest Road in Owings Mills.

His 14-year marriage to Grace D. Schmid ended in divorce. He is survived by two daughters, Laura Stafford and Diane Hoback, both of Parkville; his mother, Thelma Hess of Fullerton; three brothers, Brooks Stafford of White Marsh; Phillip Stafford of Manteca, Calif., and Randy Stafford of Sacramento, Calif.; and a sister, Bobbi Stafford of Castro Valley, Calif.

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