Frederick Heldrich

[Age 82 ] Pediatrician worked for nearly 60 years as a master diagnostician and was known for his good bedside manner

January 05, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Dr. Frederick Heldrich, a pediatrician who won his colleagues' respect as a master diagnostician in nearly six decades of medical practice and teaching at St. Agnes and Johns Hopkins hospitals, died of a melanoma Tuesday at Stella Maris Hospice. The Lutherville resident was 82.

Employing patience, time and a pocketful of lollipops, he diagnosed childhood diseases and conditions that had eluded other physicians, who turned to him for advice.

"He had an incredible curiosity and was a master at the bedside," said Dr. George Dover, pediatrician-in-chief at the Hopkins School of Medicine. "He would disappear into a room for an hour with a patient and at the end he would come out with something we had missed. ... He was a role model for all of us."

Born in Baltimore and raised in the Walbrook area, he was 1941 graduate of City College and left Gettysburg College in his sophomore year to join the Army. Sent by the Army to Yale University, he completed two years of schooling in nine months and later received his bachelor's degree from Gettysburg. He earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1948.

In 1954, he established a practice in Frederick -- and once bought a small Fiat so he could maneuver in snow while making house calls.

"His patients got a sense of comfort and assurance from him," said Dr. Albert Powell of Frederick, with whom he practiced until 1965. "He stuck with his patients and become involved with their families, and in the process he found out what was really going on."

In 1955, he began a professional association with St. Agnes Hospital and soon established a pediatrics training program there for young physicians. He moved to Baltimore from Frederick in 1966 to take a job as an assistant dean at the Hopkins medical school, but found he preferred hands-on medicine and became the pediatrics chairman at St. Agnes from 1970 to 1992.

"He was still getting Christmas cards from the parents of patients whose lives he had touched years before," said daughter Sarah A. "Sally" Heldrich of McLean, Va.

In 1992, Dr. Heldrich joined the Hopkins faculty and was named director of its Children's Center diagnostic and referral clinic, where he took on difficult cases.

"In his presence, you could feel his authority," said Dr. Charles Shubin, a longtime colleague who is director of pediatrics at Mercy Medical Center's FamilyCare unit. "And yet he would never brag or show arrogance."

Medical associates said that Dr. Heldrich preferred to make a thorough examination rather than rely upon tests.

"He is probably the single person about whom I've heard residents and students say most often, `I want to be like him,' " said Dr. Julia McMillan, director of the Hopkins pediatric residency program.

"He taught pediatricians the three A's of medicine were ability, availability and affability," said Dr. Michael Burke, St. Agnes' pediatrics chief. "He was also the person you turned to when you were worried about a case."

Dr. Heldrich worked until he was called in on a case on a Saturday morning in May. He complained of a headache, which turned out to be a stroke.

Dr. Heldrich co-wrote the textbook Pediatric Emergency Medicine, published in 1987, and was the author of scholarly articles on infectious diseases, urinary tract infections, hemophilia, metabolic disorders and genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Monday at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, 4 E. University Parkway.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 57 years, the former Eleanor Dubbs Maar; two sons, Frederick J. Heldrich III of Charleston, S.C., and Philip A. Heldrich of Richmond, Va.; another daughter, Susan Heldrich Borges of Winchester, Mass.; and eight grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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