Dr. Gary S. Hill, an internationally renowned renal pathologist and the former chief of pathology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, died Tuesday from lung cancer. He was 74.
Dr. Hill pioneered a new technique for biopsies of tissue, in addition to developing a system for identifying lupus and how far the disease had progressed in a patient. Colleagues and family described him as a man greatly interested in conversation and friends, traits that translated into the way he moved forward in his career.
"He had a real gift for friendship," said Paula Berger, a longtime family friend. "He had lots of friends. He cultivated them, enjoyed them, was interested in them."
He wanted to know "what medicine could do to help people," Ms. Berger said.
Dr. Hill grew up in Texas and later sought his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Even early in his career, he showed promise, said his wife of 46 years, Dr. Martha Hill, the dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.
"For our honeymoon, we went to Cambridge [University] because he had won an award for 'best new investigator,'" Dr. Martha Hill said.
After graduating from Hopkins' School of Medicine in 1968, Dr. Hill worked his way up from a resident in pathology at Johns Hopkins Hospital to become the chief of pathology at Hopkins Bayview Medical Center 10 years later. He remained in that position for 18 years, until the mid-1990s, while also teaching classes as a professor.
"He was an absolutely wonderful teacher, a charismatic teacher," said Dr. Robert Heppinstall, the former pathologist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a mentor to Dr. Hill.
At Hopkins, Dr. Hill developed new techniques for biopsying tissue, which were used extensively to understand the human kidney.
"It completely revolutionized our concept of kidney disease because we knew damn little about it," Dr. Heppinstall said of the biopsy technique. "Gary was an expert in the interpretation of these kidney biopsies."
Dr. Martha Hill said that when her husband did biopsies, he would tell patients whether they had a disease on the spot.
"[They] would be grateful to know immediately and not have the anguish of waiting weeks to find out," she said. "That became a very popular methodology."
In the late 1990s, Dr. Hill moved to Paris to become a visiting professor at l'UFR Broussais Hotel-Dieu at Universite de Paris. Fluent in French, he researched and developed a new, expanded method of identifying lupus and its severity.
In his career, Dr. Hill also wrote a French-English medical dictionary and a textbook on renal pathology that was very well received, colleagues said. He returned to the Baltimore area last year after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Friends, family and colleagues, who gathered at the family's home Wednesday evening, recalled not just his career, but also his ability to socialize.
"He had the driest sense of humor of anybody that I knew," said Jamie Snead, a family friend.
Dr. Hill also enjoyed art, photography and the piano.
"He was interested in many, many things," Dr. Martha Hill said. "He was interested in history, in culture, he was good at architecture. People enjoyed being with him because he was so diverse, because of what he could bring to a conversation."
Services and a reception will be Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.
In addition to his wife Dr. Hill is survived by his sons Paul and Justin and their wives, and a step-grandson.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun