Thaddeus Prout

The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Thaddeus Edmund "Thad" Prout, a retired endocrinologist and first chief of medicine at Greater Baltimore Medical Center whose work helped get several potentially dangerous drugs withdrawn from the market, died of dementia Dec. 3 at Copper Ridge nursing home in Sykesville. He was 83.

"It was a very impressive career, his doctoring, teaching and leadership. You don't have to look far around GBMC to see the imprint of his work," Dr. Thomas F. Lansdale III, an internist and current chief of medicine at the Towson hospital, said yesterday.

"He was an impressive clinician and department head who brought university medical standards to what was then a small community hospital. It was a real feat," he said.

Dr. Prout, the son of a Calvert County tobacco farmer, was born and raised in Owings, the youngest of five children.

He began his education in a one-room schoolhouse and graduated from Calvert High School in 1940. He attended St. John's College for three years before enlisting in the Navy's V-12 program in 1943.

From 1944 to 1946, he was a medical corpsman and attended the Medical College of Richmond. He later transferred to Harvard Medical School, from which he graduated in 1948.

After completing his internship and assistant residency at Boston City Hospital, he was appointed an assistant in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, Dr. Prout, a lieutenant, was recalled to active duty and deployed as the only physician aboard a troopship in the Pacific.

In 1953, he returned to Boston and was an assistant in medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine while completing his residency at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Boston.

He returned to Baltimore in 1954 as an assistant physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital while completing a fellowship in endocrinology. By the late 1950s, he was an assistant professor of medicine and was director of postgraduate training at the Diabetes Endocrine Clinic at Hopkins Hospital.

When the Hospital for Women of Maryland and the Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital merged in the early 1960s to create GBMC, Dr. Prout became the new hospital's first chief of medicine in 1964, a year before its official opening.

"He basically built the department of medicine and GBMC's residency program from scratch. He was recruiting physicians from all over the world and writing others to send their bright young doctors," Dr. Lansdale said. "And that legacy is still very much alive today."

He described Dr. Prout as a "tall, eloquent, articulate and witty man" who brought to his work a "lot of common-sense mentoring."

In addition to his work at GBMC, during the 1970s, Dr. Prout served as chairman of the endocrinology and metabolism committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and chaired its committee on anorectic drugs.

When it was brought to the attention of the FDA in the 1970s that diabetics taking phenformin were at risk for vascular shock and death, Dr. Prout's efforts led to the drug being pulled from the market without a lengthy hearings and appeals process.

"We were greatly helped by Dr. Prout in getting this dangerous drug off the market," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen, a health research watchdog group. "For the first time in 45 years, the FDA invoked the 'imminent hazard' provision and then-Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. ordered phenformin withdrawn."

Dr. Wolfe described Dr. Prout as a "very pleasant and intelligent physician who was meticulous and always saw the larger picture."

Dr. Prout was also principal investigator for six major national multi-center clinical trials investigating drug safety and efficacy.

"This work shaped FDA's policy with respect to obesity drugs, and his testimony before Congress helped end the use of amphetamines in diet pills," said a daughter, Deborah M. Prout of Incline Village, Nev.

Dr. Prout told The Evening Sun in a 1972 article that there was no evidence that diet pills were "useful over an extended period of time" and he also warned that amphetamines are the most dangerous diet pills.

"They leave the dieter nervous, anxious and tense without any noticeable loss of weight," he said.

"In order to lose weight at all, you must consume less calories than you burn," he told The Evening Sun in a 1981 interview. "You can't rub it off, sweat it off or melt it off."

From 1959 to 1976, he had been principal investigator with the University Group Diabetes Program study.

"It was widely regarded as one of the very first large-scale, multi-medical center studies in the country. The study evaluated the effects of glucose control in diabetic patients and stirred international controversy with its finding that a widely prescribed oral diabetes drug was no more effective than management of diabetes by diet alone," his daughter said. "And, in fact, resulted in 2 1/2 times greater incidence of death due to cardiovascular complications."

Dr. Prout was a prolific contributor to medical textbooks, including "Diabetes Mellitus," a chapter in The Principles and Practice of Medicine.

After retiring from GBMC in 1990, he continued in private practice at an office on West Road in Towson for nearly another decade before fully retiring from medicine.

"He tried to help patients become healthier through weight loss," Dr. Lansdale said.

Dr. Prout had been a member of numerous professional medical diabetes organizations and had been a trustee of the Sheppard Pratt Health Systems and Bryn Mawr School.

He was instrumental in the founding and operation of Camp Glyndon, a Baltimore County summer camp that provides children with diabetes opportunities for camping and outdoor recreation while learning how to manage their disease.

The longtime resident of Fenchurch Road Guilford enjoyed growing roses and sailing.

"His real hobby was his medical career. It was the center of everything," his daughter said.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 5 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

Also surviving are his wife of 57 years, the former Eleanor Wersebe; two other daughters, Amy P. MacLaughlin of Baltimore and Penelope Bradish of Clayton, N.C.; and five grandchildren.

An obituary published for Dr. Thaddeus Edmund Prout in Thursday's editions of The Sun misstated the position of Dr. Thomas F. Lansdale III. He was chairman of medicine at Greater Baltimore Medical Center from 1996 until 2005. The current department chairman is Dr. Neal M. Friedlander.The Sun regrets the error.
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