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Robert Lee Lyles Jr. of Annapolis, former Md. Health Care Commission member

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Robert Lee Lyles Jr., who had two careers in his 69 years and excelled at each, died May 27 at his home in Annapolis.

A scientist, physician and state policy adviser, Dr. Lyles "was a modern renaissance man with a tremendous curiosity," said Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society.

In April, Dr. Lyles was honored by the Maryland Society of Anesthesiologists by having a scholarship created in his name, "established to support the efforts of MSA members to promote the specialty of anesthesiology and preserve the appropriateness and safety of the delivery of anesthesia in Maryland."

Mr. Ransom, a friend of nearly 20 years, described Lyles as a tireless worker who always had his next project lined up. At the time of his death, from prostate cancer, he was working on pain management research, Ransom said.

"This was someone who really thought about things. He knew so much and could talk about anything," he said. "But it was always a two-way conversation. He really listened."

An amateur astronomer, Dr. Lyles was reassembling and installing a telescope with a 16-inch lens at his home observatory in the years before his death.

"He wasn't interested in just having a telescope. He found an old, but huge, telescope at a company in New England and he had it tractor-trailered to his house," said son-in-law Mark Thistel. "He wanted to see to the end of the universe."

A late-comer to the medical profession — he didn't start medical school until he was 36 — Dr. Lyles left his mark in Maryland. He served on the Maryland Health Care Commission from 2008 until February, and was president of the Maryland Society of Anesthesiologists and the Anne Arundel Medical Society, 2008-2010.

"When Bob told me about the stuff he'd done, I was dumbfounded. His curriculum vitae was closer to a book than a CV," said Dr. Tim Robinson, past president of the Maryland Society of Anesthesiologists. "But he was humble. You'd never guess that he held an M.D., two Ph.D.s and a master's degree."

Dr. Lyles chaired the medical society's legislative committee and was point man on legislation affecting patient care.

"He had an ability to work a room, but he was stealthy," said Mr. Ransom. "You might not have known he was in the room, but by the end of the meeting he would have shaken every hand and talked to everybody."

Born June 7, 1943, in Lynchburg, Va., Dr. Lyles was the son of a foundry worker. Public school bored him, family members said, and he had mediocre grades. But encouraged by teachers, he took the Scholastic Aptitude Test and scored in the top 1 percent.

Dr. Lyles was accepted at the University of Virginia but left after a year, when he found high school hadn't prepared him for the engineering program. He corrected those deficiencies by getting accepted into General Electric's management training program and enlisting in the Virginia Air National Guard in 1962. He later enrolled in Lynchburg College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics, economics and physics in 1969.

While visiting Norfolk in 1964, he met Frances Sallick on a blind date set up by her sister, and they married in 1967. He re-entered the University of Virginia and received a master's degree in materials science in 1971 and his doctorate in bio-materials three years later.

He shared a patent with the university for work he did with the Research with Infectious Diseases Group. Upon receiving his doctorate, he was hired as facility manager for Argonne National Laboratory, a nonprofit research arm run by the University of Chicago for the Department of Energy. He worked there for two years, according to family members.

Dr. Lyles then decided to alter his career path to pursue a medical degree. He attended Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, graduating in 1981 as president of his class. He moved his family to Baltimore while he completed an internship at Franklin Square Hospital, and later became attending anesthesiologist and director of anesthesia pain services at Maryland Shock Trauma.

He was later chief of anesthesiology at Jefferson Hospital in Alexandria, Va., and Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham. In 2001, he founded and was medical director at Lifestream Health Center in Bowie, seeing patients until a month before his death.

"Dr. Lyles lived a life that mattered," said Barbara Brocato, a legislative lobbyist and friend of 15 years. "It felt good to be a part of his life."

Dr. Lyles was an active member of the Antique Telescope Society, the American Society of Metallurgy and the New York Academy of Science.

In addition to his wife of 45 years, he is survived by daughter Robyne L. Lyles of Baltimore, and two sons, Robert L. Lyles III of Cockeysville and Ryan L. Lyles of Annapolis.

Visitations will be held at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home at 6500 York Road, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday. A memorial service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Maryland Science Center. The family suggests memorial donations be made to prostate cancer gene research at Johns Hopkins' Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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