George Benedict

[ Age 69 ] Endocrinologist for 29 years collected works by local artists and was a volunteer at Joseph Richey Hospice.

November 17, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Dr. George William Benedict, a retired Baltimore endocrinologist and longtime volunteer at Joseph Richey Hospice, died there Monday of cancer. The Bolton Hill resident was 69.

Dr. Benedict was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1959.

At 16, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and given a discouraging prognosis, including a shortened life expectancy.

"Very few knew that he was insulin-dependent for 54 years and had carcinoma of the pancreas for the last 13 years," said Dr. John W. Payne, Richey Hospice medical director and a semi-retired Baltimore ophthalmologist. "He was a role model of how to handle chronic illness and not let it conquer the joy of daily living."

Influenced by his family's physician to pursue a career in medicine, Dr. Benedict was frustrated in his attempts to gain entrance to medical school.

"He was turned down by medical schools because of his diabetes. They weren't going to waste time teaching somebody who was shortly going to die," said his wife of 41 years, the former Mary Iliff, a social worker. "His family physician knew the dean at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and after he called, Bill was accepted."

"This was flagrantly discriminatory and he proved how very wrong they were," said Dr. Christopher D. Saudek, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and friend for 25 years.

While at Williams, Dr. Benedict developed an interest in art. Through S. Lane Faison Jr., a noted art historian and professor at the college, Dr. Benedict became friends with Sterling and Francine Clark, whose world-famed art collection is now a museum in Williamstown. Mr. Faison died last week at 98.

The Clarks took an interest in the young man and his plight regarding medical school and decided to pay his tuition to Vanderbilt. "He was indebted to them and became quite close to the Clarks," Mrs. Benedict said.

After graduating in 1963, Dr. Benedict completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Hopkins. In 1970, he earned a doctorate in biology from the Johns Hopkins University.

He was a co-author with three other physicians of Mosby's Guide to Physical Examination, and had just completed his contribution for its sixth edition.

In addition to teaching at the diabetes center at Hopkins, Dr. Benedict maintained a private practice in endocrinology from 1975 until his retirement in 2004.

"He was a true gentle man and soft-spoken. He never trumpeted his accomplishments and was highly respected by his patients and colleagues," Dr. Saudek said.

"He had a brilliant and inquiring mind, which he combined with a gracious and caring personality," Dr. Payne said. "In over 40 years of friendship, I never heard him raise his voice or lose his temper."

In addition to his practice, Dr. Benedict was the physician in charge of the health program at Gilman School from 1987 to 2006, and had volunteered for more than two decades at the Joseph Richey Hospice on Eutaw Street.

"His patients were devoted to him because of his unhurried manner, incomparable attitude, and attention to detail," Dr. Payne said.

"I've never saw him do anything but be kind. Whenever he spoke, his face went into a smile. Everyone here just adored him," said hospice executive director Ruth E. Eger.

An avid art collector, Dr. Benedict's collection included works by Marc Chagall, and such noted local artists as Crystal Moll, Raoul Middleman, Reuben Kramer and Eugene Leake.

He was a member of the Elkridge Club and the Maryland Club, where he enjoyed a weekly squash game with Dr. Payne.

Dr. Benedict was a communicant of Memorial Episcopal Church, 1407 Bolton St., where a memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 25.

Also surviving are two sons, Charles L. Benedict of Waldorf and William J. Benedict of Missoula, Mont.; a brother, Richard Benedict of Columbus; and three grandsons.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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