Dr. William P. Englehart, obstetrician-gynecologist, dies

He delivered nation's fourth 'test tube baby'

September 29, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. William P. Englehart, a retired Baltimore obstetrician-gynecologist who delivered the nation's fourth "test tube baby" nearly 30 years ago, died Sept. 22 of heart failure at Oak Crest Village retirement community.

The former resident of Phoenix in Baltimore County was 90.

"The patients loved the ground that man walked on. They always came first. His patients and physicians who studied under him will long remember Bill Englehart," said Dr. Ronald G. Peterson, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist who had been a partner in Dr. Englehart's practice.

"He was during his day one of the best outstanding obstetricians and gynecologists in the area," said Dr. Peterson.

Dr. Englehart, the son of an accountant and a homemaker, was born in Pitcairn, Pa., and raised in Harrisburg, Pa., where he graduated in 1938 from John Harris High School, which is now Harrisburg High School.

He enrolled at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, now the University of the Sciences, and enlisted in the Navy Air Corps the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

His induction was deferred until June 1942, after he had graduated from college. He completed flight training and earned his pilot's wings in 1943.

During World War II, Dr. Englehart was stationed in the Solomon Islands, where he flew Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.

"They weren't in the same unit, but my father and President George Herbert Walker Bush, who was also a torpedo bomber fighter pilot, would see each other at reunions," said a son, William P. "Sam" Englehart Jr., a lawyer who lives in Cockeysville.

Discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1945, Dr. Englehart attended Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia on the G.I. Bill.

He earned his medical degree in 1950 and completed an internship in 1951 at Delaware Hospital in Wilmington.

From 1951 to 1954, he was a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the old Hospital for the Women of Maryland in Bolton Hill, which later became part of Greater Baltimore Medical Center when it opened in 1965.

In 1954, Dr. Englehart joined the private practice and later became a partner of Dr. John E. Savage, who had offices in the Medical Arts Building and later the Latrobe Building in downtown Baltimore. The practice later moved to Timonium.

Dr. Englehart designed the obstetrical suite at GBMC; Dr. Savage served as the hospital's first chief of obstetrics.

During his two-decade career as an obstetrician, Dr. Englehart delivered more than 2,500 babies, his son said, before focusing strictly on gynecology.

"Later in life, he gave up obstetrics because of the hours," his son said.

"Dr. Englehart and Dr. Savage were nationally known for teaching the use of obstetrical forceps and saddle block anesthesia for controlled deliveries of infants," Dr. Peterson said.

"My own family were patients of his. He delivered my daughter," recalled Dr. Peterson. "I was in church the other day, and a woman came up to me and said her daughter, who was now 40, had been delivered by Bill Englehart."

Many of Dr. Englehart's patients were the wives of Orioles and Baltimore Colts players. "He was a great sports fan and enjoyed that aspect of his practice," Mr. Englehart said.

His last delivery was perhaps his most famous one, his son said. In 1982, Dr. Englehart delivered Kerry Ellen Flanagan, who was the first child of Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan and his then-wife, Kathy.

After she had two unsuccessful pregnancies, Dr. Englehart referred Mrs. Flanagan to Drs. Howard W. Jones Jr. and Georgeanna Seeger Jones, who were internationally known in the field of in vitro fertilization and had established the in vitro fertilization program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va.

The Joneses' work led to the birth in 1981 of Elizabeth Jordan Carr, who was the country's first baby to be conceived outside of her mother's body.

The birth of Kerry Ellen Flanagan at 8 pounds, 8 ounces made medical history as the country's first "normal, spontaneous delivery in the United States for a baby conceived outside the womb," reported The Baltimore Sun at the time.

The earlier three test tube babies had been delivered by Caesarean section, and the birth of the Flanagans' daughter was the first nonsurgical delivery.

"Dad came out of retirement [as an obstetrician] to deliver the Flanagan baby," his son said.

Dr. Englehart retired from his gynecological practice in 1984.

Dr. Englehart was an avid Orioles and Colts fan, and for years was known as "Doctor 11" on the public address announcements at the old Memorial Stadium.

"His two heroes were Jim Palmer and Johnny Unitas," said Dr. Peterson, "and he remained a Colts fan until he passed away last week."

When former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990, Dr. Englehart was invited by Mr. Palmer to attend the induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"He was part of the Palmer family group," his son said.

"About a month ago, Jim came and spent an hour visiting with Bill," Dr. Peterson said,

Dr. Englehart, who earlier lived in Rodgers Forge and the Cambria neighborhood of Phoenix until moving to Oak Crest Village 12 years ago, was an avid gardener.

He was also an accomplished woodworker and had converted his garage into a workshop, where he enjoyed refurbishing and refinishing antique furniture.

Dr. Englehart was also a fan of jazz and big band music.

Services were Sept. 27 at Oak Crest Village.

Also surviving are his wife of 61 years, the former Sarah H. Eliason; another son, James E. Englehart of Wilmington, Del.; a daughter, Susan E. Folckemmer of Cockeysville; and seven grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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