Remembering pioneers

The Johns Hopkins community is mourning the recent losses of four giants in medicine.

Howard W. Jones Jr., a pioneer in reproductive medicine who oversaw the 1965 Johns Hopkins research that resulted in the world's first successful fertilization of a human egg outside the body, then collaborated with his wife—gynecologic endocrinologist Georgeanna Seegar Jones—to oversee the 1981 birth of the first "test tube" baby in the United States, died July 31 in Virginia. He was 104.

Jones had published his most recent book, In Vitro Fertilization Comes to America: Memoir of a Medical Breakthrough, just last year. In recent years, Jones also became known for having been the first physician at Johns Hopkins to examine Henrietta Lacks, the 1951 African-American patient with cervical cancer whose tumor cells were the first human cell line to reproduce continuously in the laboratory, becoming the basis for studies that have led to some of the most crucial medical advances of the past 65 years.

James Jude, who helped pioneer the lifesaving technique for cardiopulmonary resuscitation while he was a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the late 1950s, died July 28 in Coral Gables, Florida. He was 87.

CPR has been in practice in the United States since 1960, when Johns Hopkins researchers William Kouwenhoven, Guy Knickerbocker, and Jude published in the Journal of the American Medical Association the first data on the benefits of what was then called "cardiac massage." The trio's research eventually demonstrated that regular, rhythmic chest compressions raised blood pressure enough to keep sufficient blood flowing to the brain and other key organs, buying enough time to get a defibrillator to the patient and restart his heart.

Richard Ross, former dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, vice president for medicine of Johns Hopkins University, and a renowned cardiologist who served as president of the American Heart Association, died August 11. He was 91.

Ross was dean of the School of Medicine from 1975 to 1990. Under his leadership, the school doubled its space devoted to research, consistently was among the nation's top recipients of federal research funding, and undertook educational reforms and initiatives that stimulated a continued flow of top-notch, diverse applicants to Johns Hopkins.

Levi Watkins Jr., a pioneer in both cardiac surgery and civil rights who implanted the first automatic heart defibrillator in a patient and was instrumental in recruiting minority students to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, died April 11 of complications from a stroke. He was 70.

Watkins came to Johns Hopkins in 1970 as a general surgery intern and gained renown in 1980 for implanting the first automatic heart defibrillator in a patient suffering from repeated, life-threating episodes of ventricular fibrillation, or irregular heartbeats. Such a procedure now is commonplace, saving untold lives annually.