Marcia C. Pines

A public health administrator at Johns Hopkins, she wrote guidelines for human volunteers in research

April 13, 2009|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Marcia C. Pines, a retired administrator in public health programs at the Johns Hopkins University who pioneered guidelines for human volunteers in clinical research and who advocated greater awareness of mental illness, died Sunday morning at Sinai Hospital of complications from lymphoma. She was 83.

Mrs. Pines started her professional career as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins in 1966, in the epidemiology department in what was then known as the School of Hygiene and Public Health. Within a few years, she became director of special projects and led the effort to formalize rules for use of human volunteers in research, with Hopkins becoming among the first institutions to set such guidelines in the 1970s, her colleagues said.

Several years later, she took charge of building an alumni association at the school, now known as the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Her objective was to get things done," said Dr. Donald Henderson, dean of Hopkins' public health school from 1977 to 1990. Dr. Henderson, who helped lead the global eradication of smallpox in the 1960s and 1970s before coming to Hopkins, said Mrs. Pines sought to accomplish goals, not to accumulate professional titles.

"She was very selfless, with a tremendous devotion to the school, to the students, to seeing the organization prosper," Dr. Henderson said.

Born and raised in Northwest Baltimore, Marcia Gann attended local public schools and took college courses at a part-time school that was part of the Johns Hopkins University. She met her future husband, Joseph I. Pines, on a blind date, and they married shortly after World War II.

Their daughter, Ellen Pines of Baltimore, was diagnosed with schizophrenia by a Hopkins psychiatrist in the late 1960s. While Mrs. Pines worked to set up Hopkins' first institutional review board, she was helping guide her daughter's participation in clinical research on brain disorders, according to public testimony she gave to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission in 1998.

"We must be certain that every line of protection for these folks is in place," Mrs. Pines told the commission. "But at the same time, we must not impede the progress of research nor limit or discourage investigators into new horizons."

She retired from Hopkins in 1989. Beyond her work at Hopkins, Mrs. Pines sat on various boards and was involved in community mental health efforts. Through the 1980s and 1990s, she served as chair of the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission, chair of the Baltimore Mental Health Systems board and as a board member for local chapters of mental illness advocacy groups.

Her son, David Pines of Media, Pa., remembered his mother as a compassionate, giving person who could mobilize people.

"My mother is a connector," Mr. Pines said. "She brings people together. I like to say my mom has a pink thumb: She grows people."

Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean of the public health school from 1990 to 2005, said he didn't get a chance to work with Mrs. Pines, but he said she left behind a reputation of accomplishment.

"If you needed something done for the School of Public Health, Marcia was the person to go to," Dr. Sommer said. "... The alumni absolutely adored her. She spent many years making the school a better place."

Dr. Ruth Faden, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, said she first met Mrs. Pines 30 years ago when she came to Hopkins. She said Mrs. Pines made it a point to look out for new, young faculty members, yet also took on leadership roles.

"She was a force and an extraordinarily talented person," Dr. Faden said.

Speaking of Mrs. Pines' roles in setting up the institutional review board and the alumni association, Dr. Faden said: "These were the kinds of special projects the deans of the school would assign to her. She would make it happen. That's what she did. She made things happen, but she also took care of people. She was extraordinarily caring."

Dr. Faden said the school set up an award in Mrs. Pines' name that grants a $500 prize every year to a student who writes the best paper on the ethics of research with human subjects.

A funeral service is planned for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

In addition to her husband, a retired Baltimore Circuit Court judge, and her children, Mrs. Pines is survived by a brother, Stanford Gann Sr. of Baltimore; and a grandson.

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