Dr. Everett S. Diggs

Gynecologist Founded Oncology And Urology Divisions At Women's Hospital Before Becoming Gbmc's Chief Of Staff

January 26, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Dr. Everett Schnepfe Diggs, a retired gynecologist who later was chief of staff at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, died from heart failure Friday at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 96.

Dr. Diggs, the son of a schoolteacher and the secretary and treasurer of the Stieff Piano Co., was born in Baltimore and reared on Erdman Avenue.

After graduating from City College, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1933 from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dr. Diggs was a 1937 graduate of the University of Maryland Medical School and completed a residency in gynecology and female urology in 1941 at the University of Maryland Medical School.

He entered private practice and, with the start of World War II, was commissioned an officer in the Army. He served as chief of urology in Australia, the Philippines and Japan, with a unit of the 42nd General Medical Hospital of the University of Maryland Hospital.

After being discharged with the rank of major in 1945, Dr. Diggs resumed his private practice in the Medical Arts Building in the Mount Vernon section of Baltimore, sharing an office with Dr. Harry C. Bowie, a surgeon who had been a World War II colleague in the Southwest Pacific.

Dr. Diggs also was clinical assistant professor of gynecology at the University of Maryland, and from 1947 to 1955, he was administrative assistant of the medical school's department of gynecology.

In 1962, Dr. Diggs became chief of the department of gynecology at the old Hospital for the Women of Maryland in Bolton Hill, and a year later was appointed director of the residency program of obstetrics and gynecology at the hospital.

At Women's, he established two divisions in oncology and female urology and outpatient surgery for minor procedures.

"I first got to know him in a residency program at Women's in 1961 and then we moved to GBMC. I trained under him. He taught me everything I know," said Dr. Ronald G. Peterson, a retired Baltimore gynecologist.

"He was an excellent gynecological surgeon and taught us the medical and surgical aspects of gynecology. But he also taught us how to treat the patient, that we were to have empathy for both the patient and their family," Dr. Peterson said.

"He was just the ultimate teacher and the consummate gynecological physician of our day. He was the answer when we didn't know what to do," he said. "There is no doubt that he had the respect and admiration of his peers."

After GBMC was created in 1965 by the merger of Women's and Presbyterian Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat hospitals, Dr. Diggs continued as chairman of the department of gynecology and director of the residency program at the new hospital.

The outpatient surgery program that Dr. Diggs founded at Women's Hospital was expanded at GBMC to include general surgery and more complex gynecologic procedures and became an important factor in hospital bed utilization, resulting in decreased cost to patients.

These programs eventually led to the founding of the Ambulatory Care Center, the Sherwood Surgical Center and the Women's Surgical Center at GBMC.

Dr. Diggs also established programs in colposcopy, laparoscopy, rape evaluation and microsurgery.

He was assistant chief of staff at the hospital from 1965 to 1968, when he was named chief of staff, a position he held until 1974.

Dr. Diggs served as a member of GBMC's board of trustees and was a member and past president of the board of trustees and endowment fund of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

His numerous professional memberships also included being a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

He was also a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, where he had held various offices.

He retired in 1981.

Dr. Diggs was an avid surf fisherman and enjoyed spending time at a second home in Bethany Beach, Del. He was also an accomplished woodworker and enjoyed gardening and photography.

The longtime Towson resident, who had lived at the Pickersgill retirement community for the past six years, was a member and former elder and trustee of Faith Presbyterian Church, 5400 Loch Raven Blvd., where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday.

Surviving are his wife of 68 years, the former Emma Carroll Gibbs; a son, David S. Diggs of Vienna, Va.; a daughter, Mary Diggs Pine of Largo, Fla.; and three grandchildren.

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