Dr. George T. Nager, chairman of otolaryngology at Hopkins, dies

Noted researcher in ear disorders was author of 'Pathology of the Ear and Temporal Bone,' one of the definitive texts in the field

  • Dr. George T. Nager
Dr. George T. Nager
December 14, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Dr. George T. Nager, former chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who was also one of the world's leading otological surgeons and otopathologists, died Thursday from complications of a stroke at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

The longtime Guilford resident was 93.

"He was a real giant in his field and was very much a European in the way he approached and did things," Dr. Richard S. Ross, former dean of the Johns Hopkins medical school, said Tuesday.

"He was a very careful and kind physician who made real and lasting contributions to the surgery of hearing," said Dr. Ross.

Dr. Nager, the son of an otolaryngologist and a homemaker, was born and raised in Switzerland. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1940 from Geneva University and his medical degree in 1947 from the Zurich University School of Medicine.

He completed residencies at Zurich University Hospital and then at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he had arrived in the early 1950s. He worked with Dr. Stacy Rufus Guild, who was an associate professor of otolaryngology at Hopkins and an internationally known expert on the inner ear.

"He struck up a marvelous working relationship with Dr. Stacy Rufus Guild in expanding America's first temporal bone collection here," Dr. Edward D. Miller, dean of the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, wrote in a release to the medical school staff.

"He was asked to remain in Baltimore and was offered a staff position. He rose through the ranks and was named chairman of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in 1969, a position he held through 1984," he wrote.

One of Dr. Nager's enduring accomplishments was reorganizing and expanding the Temporal Bone Pathology Laboratory at Hopkins, which under his direction earned an international reputation.

"Early in my career at Hopkins, I collaborated with him on a project with the temporal bone where the inner ear is housed," said Dr. Lloyd B. Minor, who had been chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Hopkins, and is now provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the Johns Hopkins University.

"Throughout his career, he further developed a collection of temporal bones that had been removed during autopsies at Hopkins. This collection is in use to this day and had led to many important studies," said Dr. Minor.

He described Dr. Nager's innate "exuberance" when working.

"He was a brilliant scientist, an engaging teacher and a superb clinician. He trained many residents and established a high level of clinical care and research," said Dr. Minor.

During his career, Dr. Nager was credited with making significant contributions to the understanding and pathophysiology of ear disease and discoveries regarding common ear disorders such as otosclerosis, which is abnormal bone growth in the middle ear that leads to hearing loss and meningitis.

The laboratory he developed helped yield important recent research on bony dehiscenes, or Minor syndrome, which is a thinning of or absence of the temporal bone within the inner ear that causes balance and hearing disorders.

Dr. Nager wrote "Pathology of the Ear and Temporal Bone" and other publications on inner ear tumors and bone diseases that are standard reference works in the field.

After retiring in 1984, Dr. Nager continued conducting research at Hopkins on inner ear diseases that affect hearing and equilibrium.

In 2003, the George T. Nager Professorship in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery was established at the medical school in recognition of the lasting importance of his work.

He was a member of the American Otological Society, which restricts membership to 100 living members, and the Collegium, which allows only 20 members from the United States.

"He was a modest man and medicine was his passion," said his daughter, Geraldine Griffin of Stonington, Conn.

Dr. Nager was a devout Roman Catholic and a communicant of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where he was a Eucharistic minister. He was also a member of the Knights of Malta.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Tuesday at the cathedral.

Also surviving are his wife of 60 years, Dr. Mathilde Hofstetter, a retired pediatrician; a son, Thomas R. Nager of Baltimore; and two granddaughters.


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