Dr. Grover M. Hutchins

Former director of autopsy services was an expert in cardiac and pediatric pathology

May 06, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Grover M. Hutchins, who had been director of autopsy services at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was a world-renowned pathologist in the field of cardiac and pediatric pathology, died April 27 at a hospital in Windhoek, Namibia, from head injuries sustained in a fall. He was 77.

The longtime resident of the Warrington Condominiums in Guilford was on a world cruise with his wife of 53 years, the former Loretta Bajkowski, a real estate agent, at the time of his death.

"Grover Hutchins will be sorely missed, not only for what he did for science, but for the many friendships he developed and nurtured over the course of his 50 years at Hopkins," said Dr. Edward D. Miller, dean of the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

"He served as a mentor, teacher, colleague and friend to hundreds and hundreds of medical residents, students and faculty from the time he began his medical training here in 1957," Dr. Miller said.

"He did not just focus his research in his selected subspecialties of cardiac and pediatric pathology, but also published more than 500 papers covering practically every topic in his field," he said. "He was an outstanding scientist and an outstanding human being."

Dr. Hutchins was born in Baltimore and raised on My Lady's Manor. After graduating from Sparks High School, he enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University in 1949, where he initially studied engineering.

After serving in the Army Medical Corps from 1952 to 1954, Dr. Hutchins returned to Hopkins, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1957.

He earned his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed an internship and residency in pathology at Hopkins Hospital.

Dr. Hutchins, who had not retired, spent his entire professional career at Hopkins Hospital where he had been director of autopsy services from 1976 to 1998.

As director of autopsy services, Dr. Hutchins was responsible for the "administrative aspect of the service, trouble shooting, and training residents," said Dr. Barbara J. Crain, who succeeded him as director.

"Dr. Hutchins was a medical detective who had a great intellectual curiosity, which he brought to all of his cases. And because of that, he was a great inspiration, mentor and teacher to all who knew him," said Dr. Crain.

"He had high standards and expected a lot and because people respected him so much, they wanted to please him. It never occurred to him that you wouldn't do your job properly," she said.

He also worked diligently in helping the bereaved understand what ended the life of their loved one, she said.

"He was good at explaining things and was noted for sometimes taking any piece of paper that was available and making a drawing to explain what he was talking about," Dr. Crain said.

A physically imposing man who was gifted with a deep voice and an outwardly serious demeanor, Dr. Hutchins also had a softer side, said Dr. Crain.

"When something amused him, he'd get a twinkle in his eye and roar with laughter," she said.

In 1973, Dr. Hutchins published research that concluded that heart damage is caused by a nerve poison produced by the same bacteria that cause strep throat.

"I've known him since I was in medical school in the early 1970s, and he was a pathologists' pathologist," said Dr. Gary R. Pasternack, who later became an associate professor of pathology at the Hopkins School of Medicine.

"No one in the country knew more autopsy pathology than Grover. If we had a problem, we'd ask him to take a look and even in a one to 10 million occurrence, he'd remember seeing it and give us a detailed explanation," said Dr. Pasternack.

"He was an outstanding teacher and was always very patient with the students. He was a very colorful man who marched to a different drummer. There was no one in autopsy pathology better than Grover. Anyone at Hopkins will tell you that," he said.

Dr. Pasternack recalled "just scraping by" when studying with Dr. Hutchins, who did not fail to notice his student's lack of industry.

"Grover had perfected the ability to both chew gum and drink coffee at the same time. He called me to his office one day, and as he was chewing and slurping, looked sternly at me, and said, 'You didn't do too well on the last exam, Sport,'" Dr. Pasternack recalled with a laugh. "I think it was the way he said 'Sport.' I suddenly changed."

Dr. Hutchins served on the editorial boards or as a reviewer for more than two dozen prominent peer-reviewed journals in medicine and pathology. Last year, he was presented the College of American Pathologists' Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Hutchins, who enjoyed spending time at a Sparrows Point summer home, was an avid collector of antique rugs, silver and furniture.

"He hated golf and liked reading and doing crossword puzzles," his wife said.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete Wednesday.

Also surviving are two daughters, Diana Hutchins Bowling of Monkton and Sally Hutchins Green of Fells Point; two brothers, Thomas Hutchins of Bel Air and Leslie Devine of Midlothian, Va.; and three grandchildren. His son, David Hutchins, died in 2006.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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