Dr. John E. Adams, a pathologist who chaired the department of pathology at Greater Baltimore Medical Center for more than two decades after its founding and was a leading expert in bioethics, died July 9 of heart failure at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.
The longtime Timonium resident was 82.
"He influenced a lot of people, myself included. He was a seminal figure in my life and a role model for so many people," said Dr. Ronald L. Sirota, who worked with Dr. Adams at GBMC from 1979 to 1983.
"He was a phenomenal pathologist, leader and visionary. He was absorbed and indefatigable when it came to his work," said Dr. Sirota, who is a pathologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
"In addition to his great anatomic skills and being a highly skilled pathologist, John had tremendous organizational skills," he said.
The son of a welder and a homemaker, Dr. Adams was born in Cumberland. He moved with his family to Towson and then to a home on East Belvedere Avenue.
After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1944, he studied at Tufts University for three years and earned his bachelor's degree in 1952 from the University of Maryland.
He was a 1956 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed an internship at Union Memorial Hospital and a residency in 1957 at what was then University Hospital.
From 1958 to 1960, he served in the Air Force, where he attained the rank of captain and was chief pathologist at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.
After being discharged from the service, he was an assistant resident in pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston from 1960 to 1962.
At the same time, he was a teaching fellow in pathology at Harvard University Medical School, and was an assistant in pathology at Tufts.
He returned to Baltimore in 1962 and served as a fellow in forensic pathology in the state medical examiner's office. In 1963, was named assistant medical examiner.
Dr. Adams resigned his position to establish and chair the department of pathology at GBMC, which opened in 1965.
During the next 25 years, Dr. Adams' staff grew from six to 150 pathologists, and he designed and inaugurated many of the laboratory's current programs.
Some of those programs included full laboratory support of the hospital's prenatal counseling center and fertility center, which was one of the "largest and most successful in-vitro fertilization programs in the country," said his son John E. Adams Jr. of Sparks.
Other programs he instituted included a computerized laboratory with a closed-circuit television network that provided audiovisual communications and a link between pathologists and their microscopes in the lab and surgeons in the operating room.
During his GBMC years, Dr. Adams chaired numerous committees and served as vice chief of the medical staff for four terms.
In addition to his work at GBMC, Dr. Adams founded Central Laboratories of Associated Maryland Pathologists, a major regional reference laboratory, and served as its first president and medical director for 20 years.
It was the first comprehensive toxicology laboratory in the state, and the first to develop computer-to-computer communication for transmission of laboratory orders and results between a reference laboratory and the referring hospital.
In 1983, he established another laboratory, Pathology Service Group Ltd., which specialized in gynecological pathology.
Dr. Sirota said that he and the other pathologists could always predict Dr. Adams' arrival, which was announced by his squeaky shoes as he went down the hallway.
"When you first met John, he could be gruff and quite intimidating, but actually he was a big teddy bear and had a heart of gold," he said. "He had a great sense of humor, an impish grin and a twinkle in his eye, and he knew how to tell a joke."
Dr. Sirota added: "John had wonderful human qualities. He was kind, loyal, selfless, fair-minded and would go to any length to help people develop their careers."
After leaving GBMC in 1990, he founded Forensic Technologies International Corp., a consulting practice in forensic pathology, and during the next 15 years, his caseload expanded from 100 civil and criminal cases annually to more than 350.
Dr. Adams was also interested in the areas of medical practice regulation and biomedical ethics.
He had served for 15 years as a member of the medical licensing board of Maryland and nine years on the Maryland Commission on Medical Discipline, which is now the state Board of Physicians, with four years as chair.
The commission hears a variety of offenses under two broad categories, "moral turpitude" and "incompetence."
Dr. Adams resigned in 1981, citing inadequate staff, continued criticism from the news media and anger of his colleagues.
"In tired of being the scapegoat. I'm tired of being hated," he told The Evening Sun at the time.
Dr. Adams also taught a graduate-level course on bioethics and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University. He also taught pathology classes at the University of Maryland medical school.
He conducted training programs, classes and workshops in medical technology and pathology. He also wrote widely on cytogenetics, human and primate infertility, aircraft accident investigation and laboratory management.
Dr. Adams retired in 2005.
For years before he sold it, he liked spending time at a second home on the Severn River, where he enjoyed sailing. He also held a private pilot's license and liked flying his single-engine Arrow airplane.
He also was an avid collector of thimbles.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 11 at Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane.
In addition to his son, Dr. Adams is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former June L. Snellings; three daughters, Mindy Helene of Columbia, Leslie C. Adams of Girdwood, Alaska, and Dr. Sarah P. Adams of Wilmington, N.C.; a brother, William W. Adams of Galesville; and seven grandchildren.