Dr. Ruth Baldwin, medical unit leader


Dr. Ruth Workman Baldwin, a retired professor of medicine and former director of the seizure unit at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, died Tuesday of a heart attack at St. Agnes Hospital. She was 79 and lived in Avalon, western Baltimore County.

Dr. Baldwin began her career at the UM medical school in 1949 and retired in 1985. In addition to her work as head of the seizure unit, which she established in the early 1950s, she also was director of UM's Clinic for the Exceptional Child.

In 1962, she and Dr. Samuel P. Bessman discovered the causes of cerebromacular degeneration, which causes sufferers to begin to lose their sight at the age of 6 or 7. They found that the disease also affects the kidneys. Their research also proved that the cause of the disease was hereditary and could be chemically studied through urinary excretion.

For more than 25 years, Dr. Baldwin also headed the medical advisory board of the state Motor Vehicle Administration. The panel of physicians advises the MVA on drivers and potential drivers with existing medical conditions, and those who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated.

"It was through her work on the board and her persistence that epileptics were able to get licenses to drive," said her husband of 55 years, Gary M. Baldwin, a retired civil engineer. "Prior to the 1960s, they were unable to drive in Maryland. If an epileptic was certified that he or she was under treatment and controlled, then they could obtain a license."

A native of Elmhurst, Ill., Dr. Baldwin studied at the Lewis Institute of Chicago, now the Illinois Institute of Technology, and earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland College Park in 1942. She was a 1943 graduate of the UM medical school and studied at Harvard University in 1949 on a postdoctoral fellowship.

She was a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and an associate member of the American Academy of Neurology.

She and her husband made their home for more than 40 years on Gun Road in Avalon. A memorial service was set for 11 a.m.

today at Hope Presbyterian Church, 4748 Shelbourne Road, Arbutus, where she was an elder for many years.

Other survivors include four sons, John W. Baldwin of Relay, G. Martin Baldwin Jr. of Avalon, T. Michael Baldwin of Waldorf and Robert Baldwin of Catonsville; a sister, Arline Bartusch of Houston; and 10 grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the church.

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