Marion I. D'Lugoff, 61, health care advocate

September 08, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Marion Isaacs D'Lugoff, an advocate of medical care for the poor, homeless and immigrants who was the founder of a free East Baltimore clinic, died of lymphoma Sunday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 61.

A Johns Hopkins University nursing school assistant professor, Mrs. D'Lugoff founded and ran the Lillian D. Wald Community Nursing Center at Rutland Avenue and Federal Street -- an operation that has grown with the addition of four satellite branches and treats about 2,000 families a year.

Born Marion Isaacs in Brooklyn, N.Y., she earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from New York University and a master's in education from Columbia University. She had recently completed her course work for a doctorate in public health administration from the University of Baltimore.

She moved to Baltimore in 1979 and joined the Hopkins faculty in 1984 to run the nursing school's community outreach effort. She had earlier spent 20 years working with the poor in New York City, at the Lower East Side's Gouverneur Health Services Program and as associate director of nursing at New York's Bellevue Hospital and assistant professor of nursing at Boston University.

"I came here with an idea of what I wanted to do," Mrs. D'Lugoff said in a Johns Hopkins Magazine article, which said she was "determined to immerse nursing students in the city itself."

She named her medical center after a pioneering public health nurse and staffed it with nursing students beginning 11 years ago. It occupies several rooms in the Rutland Center, a former public school converted into a transitional housing site.

"There are huge numbers of poor and uninsured people with health indices that parallel Third World countries in pockets of East Baltimore," she said in the Hopkins interview. "The need, for free community-based care, was so obvious and oppressive that we could not fail to do something about it."

"She started by providing free physicals to homeless children so they could get into Head Start programs," said Nancy Glass, one of her former students, who holds a doctorate in nursing and runs a health disparity research center in Portland, Ore. She said Mrs. D'Lugoff soon was giving medical care to their siblings and their extended families.

"It was all done on her energy," Dr. Glass said. "When you walked in the door, you might think, `This is chaos.' Marion was right in the center. It was her rhythm that made the clinic move."

Mrs. D'Lugoff also insisted that mothers who brought children in for routine immunizations receive medical care.

"She wouldn't let you go," said Jennifer Klein, a former student who is now a nurse practitioner in Dallas. "She was getting mammograms and Pap smears for the mothers. Word of our work spread throughout the immigrant community too."

"Marion D'Lugoff was a nursing heroine," said Jacquelyn C. Campbell, a Hopkins nursing professor. "She would do anything to provide anything for the citizens of East Baltimore. She didn't recognize the word `no.' She was wonderful with children. She taught hundreds of Hopkins students to carry on this tradition, which they are now doing on all four corners of the globe. My own daughter is an alumna, and she told me that she learned her best nursing from Marion."

"In no way was Marion's work a lavish operation. It was handled more with her personal energy than with big money," said her husband of 24 years, Dr. Burton C. D'Lugoff, a retired Hopkins associate professor of medicine and psychiatry.

In 1976, Mrs. D'Lugoff was awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship. She also has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Community Service from the Johns Hopkins Health System and the M. Frances Etchberger Award in recognition of outstanding service to mothers and children from the Maryland Public Health Association.

Services were held yesterday at Beth Am Congregation, where Mrs. D'Lugoff was a member. Other survivors include a son, Daniel Raphael D'Lugoff, and daughter, Sarah Rachel D'Lugoff, both of Baltimore; two brothers, Jack Isaacs of Hackensack, N.J., and Larry Isaacs of Henderson, Nev.; and a sister, Ce-Ce Sloan of Laguna Heights, Calif.

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