Deborah A. Krohn, a nurse who used her legal training to advise medical colleagues on patient safety, died April 30 at Johns Hopkins Hospital of sepsis related to complications of a liver transplant. The Pikesville resident was 54.
Ms. Krohn often spoke to medical groups throughout the country on patient issues and how health care providers could avoid medical errors. She was a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital before earning a law degree a decade ago. She left nursing to pursue a legal career, only to return a few years later.
"Everyone who met her remembers Debbie as an open, outgoing, dynamo of a person," said Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz. "She was a brilliant speaker. Once you heard her talk, you listened. She was definitely not a boring academician. She was known for her engaging and spirited presentations."
The judge said Ms. Krohn, who had been his law clerk, spoke about the safe use of an anesthetic used during colonoscopies. She also discussed safety issues involving minor procedures requiring patients to be sedated for a relatively short period of time, the judge said.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., she earned a degree at the Beth Israel Nursing School in New York City. She moved to Baltimore and joined the Hopkins Hospital staff as a pediatric nurse. Friends said she became a nursing coordinator but insisted on being directly involved in hands-on patient care.
"She told me she never wanted to become an administrator or as she put it, 'a nurse in a skirt,' " Judge Levitz said.
In 1989, she decided to change careers and enrolled at the University of Baltimore Law School while still nursing at Hopkins. After her graduation, she began working as Judge Levitz's law clerk.
She took the Maryland bar examination - and was initially told she had failed.
"She was a wreck - crying and depressed for two weeks," said Judge Levitz, who strongly recommended that she have her exam regraded.
"A data entry error caused her score to be miscalculated," the judge said. "The Board of Bar Examiners notified her two weeks after telling her she failed that she in fact passed easily."
Ms. Krohn began as an associate with the firm of Mason, Ketterman and Morgan and did medical malpractice defense. She later formed her own firm with a colleague, Malinda Siegel.
"She grew to dislike the conflict of law and felt her skills would be better used by showing people how to avoid becoming involved in the process," said Diana Hobbs, an attorney and former nurse.
After several years, Ms. Krohn decided to return to nursing and returned to Hopkins as an endoscopy nurse.
"Even when she was practicing law, Debbie never relinquished her nurse personality. She remained open and giving, and was honest to a fault. She saw her patients as whole persons and not for the illness for which they were being treated," said Ms. Hobbs. "She felt she would be a better nurse with the benefit of her legal training."
Ms. Hobbs also recalled her empathy for families of patients.
"She was a true patient advocate," she said.
In her free time Ms. Krohn would take a Saturday bus trip to New York for a theater matinee or shopping. She belonged to a knitting group and frequently brought baked goods she made to share with her colleagues.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
Ms. Krohn never married. Survivors include two brothers, Richard Krohn of Atlanta, Ga., and Donald Krohn of Towson.