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Pioneering Rheumatologist, a Compassionate Clinician, Dies

Thursday, May 07, 2009

John Baum, M.D., a pioneer in pediatric rheumatology who also was known as a compassionate master clinician and outstanding teacher, died May 4 in Strong Memorial Hospital. Dr. Baum, a professor emeritus of Medicine and of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was 81.

Dr. Baum, a member of the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty for 40 years, taught and inspired generations of residents and medical students.

“John Baum is the reason I chose this field,” said David Siegel, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Medical Center’s Division of Pediatric Rheumatology and Immunology. “What was striking about John was that wherever he went, and he went all over the world, people were drawn to him. He was passionate about rheumatology and his enthusiasm for all aspects of the field was infectious. He was no less animated with patients and families. He literally would get down on the floor with the children during their visits to the clinic.”

His relationships with colleagues were “warm and supportive and consistently infused with his ever-present sense of humor,” Siegel said. “Working with John, from the very beginning of my residency, I had a wonderful role model, mentor, colleague and friend to whom I owe much.”

Dr. Baum, who focused on clinical research, wrote or co-wrote more than 120 journal articles. He participated in developing the diagnostic classification criteria for juvenile arthritis. The American College of Rheumatology named him a “Master,” a high honor in recognition of his scholarly contributions and service to patients and students.

“John was a larger-than-life figure, not only due to his clinical and scientific contributions, but more important, because of his compassion, warmth, dedication and unwavering optimism and positive outlook on life,” said Inaki Sanz, M.D., chief of the Medical Center’s Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology. “He will be greatly missed but not forgotten.”

Dr. Baum treated adults as well as children for many years. He directed the Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Unit at Monroe Community Hospital for 25 years.

“John was compassionate and considerate to his patients,” said John Leddy, M.D., professor emeritus of Medicine. “He was particularly respected for his very kind and devoted care. They may not be unique traits, but John had them in spades. He contributed tremendously to patient care in Rochester. He contributed greatly to our education and training programs and he added a lot to the academic climate in this field by his lively and vibrant style and his engaging intellectual curiosity.”

A native of New York City, Dr. Baum received a Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University in 1949 and graduated from the NYU College of Medicine in 1954. After residencies in hospitals in Baltimore and New York City, he was a research fellow in the rheumatism research unit of London University in England.

In 1959, Dr. Baum became the director of the Arthritis Clinic at Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, Texas, and also joined the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. In 1968, he was named associate professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and also director of the Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Unit, Monroe Community Hospital. In 1970, he became director of the Pediatric Arthritis Unit of Strong Memorial Hospital, a position he held for almost 30 years. In 1972, he was appointed professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and of Rehabilitation Medicine.

From 1987 to 1989, Dr. Baum was a professor of Rheumatology at the University of Birmingham Medical School in England. In 1990, he returned to Rochester and the Medical Center. In spite of his declining health, Dr. Baum continued to work in the clinic at least once a week through the end of 2008.

A runner and cross-country skier for much of his life, Dr. Baum, who lived in Rochester, also was an avid fan of movies.

In addition to his wife, Erna, Dr. Baum is survived by five children, Nina Walker of Rochester, N.Y., Jane McCarthy of Buffalo, N.Y., Carl Baum, M.D., of New Haven, Conn., Antonia Baum, M.D., of Chevy Chase, Md., and Ted Baum of Brighton, N.Y., and 10 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 30, at the Rochester Academy of Medicine, 1441 East Ave. Contributions can be made to the Albert and Phyllis Sussman Palliative Care Unit at Strong Memorial Hospital.

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