C. Lockard Conley

The Hematologist And Professor Of Medicine Was Head Of The Division Of Hematology At Johns Hopkins

February 04, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Carroll Lockard Conley, an internationally known hematologist and pioneering researcher who established the division of hematology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he was a professor of medicine, died Saturday of Parkinson's disease at the Charlestown retirement community.

Dr. Conley, who went by C. Lockard Conley and did not use his first name, was 94.

"Lock was a tremendous influence in the training and mentoring of the current leaders in hematology. He was a giant," said Dr. Richard S. Ross, former dean of the Johns Hopkins medical school.

"For instance, he mentored Julius Krevans, who was the former chancellor of the University of California at San Francisco, and the late Dudley P. Jackson, a hematologist and professor of medicine at Georgetown University," said Dr. Ross.

"And there was Sir David Weatherall, former professor of medicine who occupied Sir William Osler's chair at Oxford University and was the founder of the university's Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine," he said.

Dr. Conley, whose father owned F. Lieb Packing Co., a Market Place oyster packing firm, and whose mother was a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Calloway Avenue.

It was while he was a student at Forest Park High School, from which he graduated in 1931, that Dr. Conley developed an interest in biology.

"I attended college at Johns Hopkins and majored in biology, not knowing at that point what I was going to do with it," he said in a 1987 interview with the Columbia University Oral History Research Office.

"And in fact, it was not until the third year of college that I decided that I wanted to be a pre-medical student. I hadn't made that decision until that point. I graduated from Hopkins in 1935 as a pre-medical student," Dr. Conley said.

"I think it was a practical decision. What else could I do with that kind of background, particularly at that particular time, when there wasn't very much future in anything. There didn't seem to be," he said in the interview.

He attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine before transferring to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he earned his medical degree in 1940, and completed an internship at Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

During World War II, Dr. Conley, who attained the rank of major, served as a medical officer with the Army Air Forces' altitude training unit at Maxwell Field in Alabama.

Dr. Conley arrived at Hopkins in 1946, and the next year was appointed head of its newly formed division of hematology, a position he retained until 1980, when he retired.

In the Columbia interview, Dr. Conley explained that the then-chairman of medicine at Hopkins, the legendary Dr. A. McGehee "Mac" Harvey, who reigned over the medical school for 27 years, set high standards and expectations for his staff.

"In that era," Dr. Conley said, "and until recently, the tradition [of the] three-legged stool was in vogue. In other words, every successful member of the full-time staff was expected equally to be a teacher, an investigator and a clinician."

During his years at Hopkins, Dr. Conley "conducted landmark inquiries into blood coagulation, blood platelets, hemorrhagic diseases and hemoglobins, including sickle cell anemia," said a 2006 profile in the Johns Hopkins Medical Journal.

He also made significant contributions to developing therapy for vitamin B12 deficiency.

In 1956, he became the first physician at Hopkins who was not the head of a School of Medicine department to be made a full professor.

He was also a prolific author of more than 120 articles and book chapters and served on the editorial boards of numerous medical journals.

"He was not only a gifted clinician in general medicine and blood disorders, but also an exceptional teacher and an astute researcher," said a daughter, Dr. Anne C. Weaver, an Amherst, Mass., pediatrician and internist.

"His intellectual curiosity led to discoveries in many areas. He characterized the lupus anticoagulant, established that clotting factors were plasma proteins, worked on B12 metabolism and studied sickle cell disease while following patients for 40 years in his clinic," Dr. Weaver said.

"Lock Conley was the man you went to when you found something odd in a patient," Dr. Ross said. "He was always willing to put down what he was doing and share your enthusiasm."

Dr. Conley, a soft-spoken and modest man who was quick to praise others for their accomplishments, was admired by generations of medical students for his broad and detailed medical knowledge.

"Lock Conley was the most brilliant man I ever knew in medicine," the late Dr. Daniel G. Sapir, a Baltimore kidney specialist, internist and medical educator, said in an interview some years ago.

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