Dr. Theodore E. Woodward, 91, longtime UM medical educator

July 12, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. Theodore E. Woodward, a retired University of Maryland medical educator who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of infectious diseases, died of heart failure yesterday at his Roland Park home. He was 91.

He was chairman of the UM medical school's Department of Medicine from 1954 to 1981, and earlier had conducted influential studies related to cholera, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, malaria and tuberculosis.

"He had one of the richest careers in medicine I know about," said Dr. William L. Henrich, current chairman of the Department of Medicine. "He was internationally revered as an investigator and was a master clinician. His work had a humanitarian flavor to it. He tried to keep large populations healthy in endemic conditions."

Born and raised in Westminster, the son and grandson of Carroll County physicians, he was a 1930 graduate of Westminster High School. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and received his medical education at the University of Maryland.

As a 22-year-old intern, he saw patients at the old Maryland Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Sabillasville and had additional study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

"Early on, I had planned to come to Westminster to practice. But I needed more training, and the war came in, and I went into the Army in January 1941," he told The Sun in 1990. In the early days of World War II, Dr. Woodward studied dengue fever in Bermuda and rickets in Jamaica before being sent to North Africa, where he found a typhus epidemic raging.

French scientists at the Pasteur Institute invited Dr. Woodward to help them, and after several years of study he was credited with holding down the incidence of typhus cases among Allied troops in North Africa, Italy and the Pacific as a member of the U.S. Typhus Commission.

"He was one of the first people I know who used the practical relationship with the military to study infectious disease questions," said Dr. Henrich, who holds an endowed professorship at Maryland named for Dr. Woodward at his 1981 retirement. "He studied how you keep an Army in the field by preventing infectious diseases."

On Feb. 4, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded him the Typhus Commission Medal for "exceptionally meritorious service." It recognized his "original scientific work and administrative responsibilities" in wartime efforts to protect military forces against typhus.

He left the Army in 1946 as a lieutenant colonel, and became an assistant professor at Maryland.

Work begun during the war continued to bring recognition for Dr. Woodward -- in 1961, the Louis Pasteur Medal awarded by the French institute, and in 1973, the Army's Outstanding Civilian Award. In 1990, he received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service to the armed forces.

"Nationally and internationally, he is considered one of the fathers of the subspecialty of infectious diseases," said Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak, a friend and chairman of medical service at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Hospital.

After the war, Dr. Woodward returned to Baltimore and briefly had a private practice, but also spent time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in suburban Washington. He studied a new class of drugs -- antibiotics -- that had recently been developed.

"In 1948, one of the drug companies sent an antibiotic down for study, chloramphenical," Dr. Woodward said in the 1990 interview. He used the drug during a three-month investigation in Kuala Lumpur, where he and a group of colleagues, including Dr. Joseph Smadel, found it effective as the first documented medical cure for typhoid fever.

Dr. Woodward found a man there suffering from the disease who was cured overnight by a dose of the drug. After the researchers reported their findings in a 1948 scientific article, they were nominated for the Nobel Prize.

"I believe a doctor should be well-trained, interested and dedicated in what he is doing," Dr. Woodward said in the interview. "If he is well-trained and well-rounded, he'll order fewer tests and give fewer drugs."

"To the alumni who knew him, and that includes most of those living today except for the most recent graduates, Theodore Woodward was the University of Maryland School of Medicine," said Dr. John A. Kastor, who succeeded him in heading the department. "As chairman of the Department of Medicine for an incredible 27 years, he had taught most of them."

Dr. Woodward continued to practice clinical medicine and, for many more years, taught after his official retirement -- giving up the latter a year ago because of failing health.

"One would expect a man in his 80s to give short seminars. Not Ted Woodward. Each session took up to three hours, and the students loved them," Dr. Kastor said.

Despite his distinguished resume, Dr. Woodward had something else in mind when asked by a reporter to pinpoint his foremost achievement: "A parent. I think that's the most important thing any of us can do. When I'm away, I'm away. When I'm home, I'm home. I taught my kids how to ride a bike, swim, play baseball. I found time to do that."

Funeral plans were incomplete.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, the former Celeste Constance Lauve, a physician and Maryland medical school classmate; two sons, Dr. William E. Woodward of Oxford and Westminster, who does research in tropical infectious diseases, and Dr. R. Craig Woodward of Atlanta, an internist; a daughter, Dr. Celeste Woodward Applefeld of Baltimore, a pediatrician; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A son, Lewis O. Woodward, died in 1955.

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