Dr. Jennifer Ann Kierson, a physician who was beginning a career in the care of newborn infants, died Friday of a stroke at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She was 34 and lived in Canton.
Born at Sinai Hospital -- where she became a staff member last year -- she was attracted to medicine as an 11-year-old student at Deer Park Elementary School in Randallstown. Family members said an aunt took her shopping and bought her a book, It Can't Hurt Forever. In it, she read how a pediatric cardiologist saved a child's life.
"From that day on, she wanted to be a doctor," said her father, Richard Kierson of Pikesville. "She never wavered from that goal."
She was a 1991 graduate of Randallstown High School and earned a degree in biology from Goucher College, where she played volleyball. She then applied to medical school and initially encountered rejection letters.
"She was determined to get her medical degree, and although she excelled in college and was at the top of her class, she did not test well on standardized tests," her father said.
He said she studied for another year and retook the Medical College Admission Test. This time, she was admitted to the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and earned a degree.
She did her internship at Sinai Hospital and received a DuPont Fellowship for additional study at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del. She worked in neonatology and was chief fellow in that field from 2005 to last year.
She then returned to Baltimore and joined Sinai's department of newborn medicine.
"You could not tire her out," said Dr. Thomas O'Brien, her unit's medical director. "She was unflappable. She was a bright young physician, full of enthusiasm and fresh and new ideas."
He recalled that Dr. Kierson worked well with parents, who sought her advice. "Her death was tragic in that she was really poised to spread her wings," said Dr. O'Brien, with whom she worked.
Family members said that after years of schooling, Dr. Kierson had planned to take a cruise this week. She experienced neck pain last week, and her last conscious act was to call 911 from her apartment.
"Her life revolved around her work and her family," said her sister, Cindy Newman of Columbia. "She was just getting comfortable at Sinai and beginning to enjoy being an attending physician after years of training."
As part of her duties at Sinai, Dr. Kierson also taught others going into the field. "She could make people laugh when she walked into a room, and I think she made the young residents comfortable," her sister said. "Her students have told me she was a wonderful teacher and role model."
Services were held Sunday in Pikesville.
Besides her father and sister, survivors include her mother, Merle Rosenfeld Kierson of Pikesville; a grandmother, Tillie Zemel of Baltimore; and two nephews.