Doctor hailed as tireless advocate

The Baltimore Sun

The staff at Howard County General Hospital would not have been surprised to see pediatrician Ted Leffler checking on a newborn patient Monday night.

Colleagues called Dr. Allan Theodore Leffler II, a fixture at several area hospitals over three decades, as a tireless and hands-on advocate for his patients, even when they were in the care of a specialist or hospital staff.

But the 66-year-old Ellicott City physician did not reach the hospital Monday night. Howard County police said a Ford Taurus driven by Christopher C. McCullough -- who had turned 21 that day -- crossed the median of Route 103 just west of Chatsworth Way, struck Dr. Leffler's Volkswagen Passat and killed both drivers on impact.

After a birthday dinner with his family earlier that evening, Mr. McCullough was returning from a friend's house to his home on Bounty Court, a few blocks from where the accident occurred about 10:37 p.m. He was a 2004 graduate of Howard High School and a Howard Community College student.

Dr. Leffler's wife, Melissa Leffler, 58, was a passenger in his car. She was flown by helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she was in serious condition yesterday.

A cause of the accident had not been determined yesterday, according to Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.

The practice Dr. Leffler started in 1970 in his home on Montgomery Road -- about a half-mile from the accident scene -- grew into Ellicott City Pediatric Associates, a five-doctor organization on Chevrolet Drive.

Dr. Edward H. Cahill III, who joined the practice in 1976, said Dr. Leffler was well-known in the community as one of the longest-practicing pediatricians in the county.

"His initial goal was to have a small solo practice in his basement," Dr. Cahill said. "It worked out to be bigger instead of smaller." But he said Dr. Leffler continued to take a direct approach to caring for thousands of patients over the years in his office and at area hospitals.

"He never let them go," said George Dover, director of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "It was one of the most admirable things about him. It didn't matter how complex the case -- he was always a present and driving force behind the care of his patients."

He said Dr. Leffler was instrumental in helping the Children's Center develop better practices for communicating with general pediatricians. Dr. Leffler also allowed Hopkins medical students to use his practice for on-site learning.

"He was one of the best role models we had ... for how a general pediatrician could stay involved with his patients," Dr. Dover said.

He was similarly active at Howard County General Hospital, where he had practiced since its opening and served as chairman of the department of pediatrics from 1983 to 1992. He was also a member of the medical staff at St. Agnes Hospital since 1970 and often participated in teaching rounds and lectures.

Patient's praise

Sometimes, it was the little things that mattered most to his patients.

Elise Salazar of Ellicott City recalled that he had a kind and respectful approach to her six children, now ages 7 months to 14 years, and that he trusted her judgment as a parent.

When her son was 2 and stuck a button up his nose, Ms. Salazar said, she called the office for a referral to the emergency room and Dr. Leffler answered the phone.

"He said, 'I happen to be in the office, why don't you bring him on by,' " she recalled. "You just don't see that in the medical field these days."

Dr. Leffler was also remembered for his advocacy on children's health issues, including access to vaccinations and health insurance, and for traveling to Latin America to provide health care to impoverished children.

Dr. Leffler has three children from a previous marriage and helped raise Melissa Leffler's two children.

Student athlete

Mr. McCullough attended the University of Maryland, College Park until last year, when he returned to live with his parents, Charles J. McCullough and Katherine S. McCullough, at their Ellicott City home.

Mr. McCullough played soccer -- a sport he had played competitively since he was 9 -- all four years at Howard High School. He also played lacrosse his freshman and sophomore years, according to his father.

"Chris was a little guy ... but he was tough as nails," his father said. "He played an entire season of soccer on a broken foot."

Mr. McCullough also enjoyed rock 'n' roll and had an affinity for dogs, including his golden retriever, Zoe.

Mary Day, who was principal at Howard High School when Mr. McCullough attended, said she was shocked by the news.

"I can still see his face. ... Chris was a nice kid," said Ms. Day, who now runs Howard County schools' Applications and Research Lab. "He was a very likable, likable young man."

A memorial service for Mr. McCullough will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Howard Community College in Room 100 of the ELB Building.

Funeral arrangements for Dr. Leffler were incomplete yesterday.

Sun reporter John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.

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