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Arthur Haskins
Arthur Haskins

Dr. Arthur L. Haskins, a retired Baltimore obstetrician-gynecologist who worked to end segregation at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center and delivered in the early 1970s what was believed to be the first set of quintuplets there, died Thursday of complications from dementia at the Mercy Ridge retirement home.

He was 98.

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"Dr. Haskins changed my life. Without him, I don't know what I would have done. He mentored me. He built me up. I was very fortunate in getting to know him," said Dr. Louis L. Randall, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist who was the only African-American in a class of 100 in 1955 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"In 1958, he took me as the first black resident in the general hospital," said Dr. Randall. "This man broke ground. He was a pioneer. He unified the department and brought in black students."

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The son of Arthur L. Haskins, a salesman, and Julia S. Ingersoll, a homemaker, Arthur Lyman Haskins was born in Philadelphia. Because of the nature of his father's work, he moved frequently until settling in the early 1930s in Brighton, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester.

After graduating in 1934 from Brighton High School, Dr. Haskins earned a medical degree in 1943 from the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

Dr. Haskins joined the Navy in 1943 and was an intern at Brooklyn Naval Hospital in New York from 1943 to 1944; he served as a medical officer until 1947, when he was discharged.

He completed an internship in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Louis Maternity and Barnes hospitals in St. Louis in 1948, and was an associate resident in obstetrics and gynecology from 1949 to 1950, also at St. Louis Maternity and Barnes hospitals.

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In 1951, he completed a residency in obstetrics at St. Louis Maternity Hospital and also in gynecology at St. Louis Maternity and Barnes Hospitals. He was an instructor in obstetrics and gynecology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis from 1952 to 1954.

Dr. Haskins was invited in 1955 to become chairman of the new combined department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Our experiences in Rochester and St. Louis had not prepared us for the manner in which blacks were treated socially and medically in Maryland," Dr. Haskins wrote in his memoir, "Big Stone Gap: A Sentimental Journey."

He was overwhelmed by the "magnitude of the segregation problem. Segregation was well established at the University of Maryland Hospital," he wrote.

Dr. Randall recalled feeling the sting of racism during his days there.

"They called me 'Uncle Lou,' and there was no social contact. There was even a colored entrance that was carved in stone that's now gone," he said. "When he asked me questions that the white guys didn't know the answers to and they just sat there and smiled, Dr. Haskins would say, 'Tell them the answers, Lou,' and I could feel the lynch mob beginning to gather outside."

"You would have thought that the OB/GYN department would have been the last department to integrate and take black students," said Dr. Ted Patterson, a retired general practitioner and former student of Dr. Haskins whose practice was in Turners Station. "He stood his ground that Dr. Randall was qualified, had good grades, and was fit to see any patient, no matter what their color. It was a no-brainer."

"White patients were not allowed to be examined by black doctors, and many times they were sent to other hospitals by their physicians," said Dr. Randall, who lives in Avalon. "There were separate delivery rooms and wards. One time, we ran out of beds, and I told the nurse to put the black patient in the room for white patients and she protested. Again, I thought I'd be met by a lynch mob."

"A long line of black students followed Louis in obstetrics at the University of Maryland Hospital," Dr. Haskins wrote. "Some were good and some were bad, about the same as their whiter skinned colleagues."

Dr. Haskins also made strides in other areas of research. He was interested in a female sterilization procedure that could be reversed at a later date, and developed a reversible contraceptive clamp.

Starting in 1970, doctors at the University of Maryland started placing clips, similar in size to staples, around a woman's fallopian tubes and blocking them. The advantage was the procedure did not require surgery and could be done on an outpatient basis.

"I think it is a safe, effective and rapid method with minimal complications and a low failure rate," Dr. Haskins told The Baltimore Sun in 1972. "Most sterilization procedures for women require surgery and are irreversible."

The laparoscopic method made tiny incisions below a woman's navel and, using cool light and electric current, severing the fallopian tubes. Dr. Haskins' method inserted the clip, made of tantalum, a light metal, through the patient's vagina, with the procedure requiring no more than eight to 10 minutes in the operating room.

One of Dr. Haskins' obstetrics patients, Karen Rohrer, who lived in Catonsville with her husband, Charles R. Rohrer Jr., was taking Pergonal, a fertility drug. Subsequent X-rays showed that she was carrying more than one child.

On Oct. 8, 1974, more than a month early, Ms. Rohrer went into labor and Dr. Haskins was summoned to what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center to deliver the babies. It was decided that the babies would not be born vaginally but rather by cesarean section.

The babies — Russell, Michelle, Sandra, Belinda and Jennifer — were born at one-minute intervals. They were believed to be the first quintuplets born at the University of Maryland and possibly in Maryland.

Dr. Haskins told The Evening Sun at the time that the frequency of quintuplet births is one in 40 million.

"You can deliver a lot of babies, but it's still exciting," Dr. Haskins said. "But when you multiply it by five, it's really exciting."

Dr. Haskins, who lived on Copeleigh Road in Stoneleigh for many years, retired in 1980. He and his wife moved to Savannah, Ga., and then Charlotte, N.C.

His wife, the former Kathryn Sara "Kay" Burke, whom he married in 1943, died in 2006. He moved to Mercy Ridge the next year.

Dr. Haskins had owned two airplanes, a Beechcraft Musketeer and later a Piper Cherokee, which he enjoyed flying to medical conferences. He also liked vacationing at a family cottage at Farleys Point on Lake Cayuga in New York and reading science fiction.

Funeral services are private.

Dr. Haskins is survived by two sons, Arthur L. Haskins III of Charlestown, R.I., and Dr. D. Burke Haskins of Baldwin; a daughter, Kathy Haskins-Fick of Wiltondale; a sister, Louise Stiles of Medford, N.J.; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. Another son, Mark I. Haskins, died in 2004.

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