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Dr. Gaylord L. Clark Jr., noted Baltimore hand surgeon and founder of the Raymond M. Curtis Hand Rehabilitation Center, dies

Dr. Gaylord L. Clark Jr., a retired noted Baltimore hand surgeon who was a founder of the Raymond M. Curtis Hand Rehabilitation Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, now the Curtis National Hand Center, and was also an enthusiastic mariner, died of respiratory failure Sept. 1 at his home at Carriage House farm in Stevenson. The former Roland Park resident was 93.

“Gaylord was a conservative person who had the utmost integrity and was just a really good man,” said Dr. E.F. Shaw Wilgis, a retired orthopedic surgeon and one of the three founders of the Raymond M. Curtis Hand Center, and friend and colleague of 60 years.

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Dr. Gaylord L. Clark Jr. was a co-founder of Raymond M. Curtis Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Gaylord L. Clark Jr. was a co-founder of Raymond M. Curtis Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital. (Handout / HANDOUT)

“He was very loyal to his patients and friends and was an amazing character whose demeanor was above reproach,” Dr. Wilgis said. “He was an excellent surgeon and conservative and didn’t take a lot of chances. He stayed within the boundaries all of the time and had excellent results. He was well thought of and the top of the pile.”

Dr. James P. Higgins is the chief of hand surgery at Curtis National Hand Center.

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“Gaylord was, from the standpoint locally, a giant. Everyone knew Gaylord and it was a tough day when he passed,” Dr. Higgins said. “He left a big imprint clinically and the loss of Gaylord is huge because he was so was widely loved.”

Dr. Stuart B. Bell is vice president of medical affairs at Union Memorial where earlier he had been chief of staff.

“He was an important figure in hand surgery both locally and nationally,” Dr. Bell said. “He was a wonderful hand surgeon and person and an exceptional role model. He had been a leader of our medical staff and was active in making sure the medical historic record was archived at Union Memorial and Hopkins.

“I worked with Dr. Clark for 45 years so we had significant overlap,” Dr. Bell said.

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Gaylord Lee Clark Jr., son of Gaylord L. Clark, a lawyer and partner at Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, and his wife, Juliana Keyser Clark, was born in Baltimore and raised on the family farm, Margaret Meadows, in Stevenson.

Dr. Clark was a graduate of Calvert School, attended St. Paul’s School for Boys, and graduated in 1946 from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and from 1946 to 1948, was on active duty with the Marine Corps. A reservist, he was reactivated during the Korean War, serving from 1950 to 1951, and attaining the rank of sergeant.

From 1948 to 1950, he attended the Johns Hopkins University, and was a student at Stanford University from 1951 to 1952, and did post graduate study in biology at Stanford from 1953 to 1954.

He returned to Baltimore in 1954 and began his medical studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine from which he earned his medical degree in 1958. He was an assistant resident in general surgery from 1959 to 1960 at Union Memorial Hospital, and was an orthopedic resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1960 to 1963.

From 1963 to 1964, Dr. Clark was a fellow in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital’s Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Hand Surgery, and in 1964, he had a National Institutes of Health Traveling Fellowship Grant which allowed him to visit hand centers in Great Britain, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Dr. Clark’s academic appointments included being named an assistant professor on the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and an assistant dean for part-time faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

He was board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Clark’s clinical interest was hand surgery and he began his career in 1964 at Union Memorial, and from 1978 to 1981, was vice chief of staff at the hospital, and from 1981 to 1984, chief of staff.

From 1964 to 1997, he was visiting orthopedic surgeon at Children’s Hospital for reconstructive surgery, and had been a consultant to the medical staff at the James Lawrence Kernan Hospital, which is now the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute in Woodlawn, and was also a hand consultant to the U.S. Naval Hospital and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, both in Bethesda, and continued visiting the hospitals even in retirement.

Dr. Clark told The Sun in a 1989 article that warm and pleasant summer weekends that encourage gardening, keep the hand, back and foot surgeons at Union Memorial busy, with drinking and carelessness being the source of most injuries caused by lawn mowers, hedge trimmers and weed whackers.

“If we eliminate drinking and drugs, we reduce trauma problems by a high percentage,” Dr. Clark told the newspaper.

Even though Dr. Clark had retired from surgery when he turned 65, he remained a presence in the hand surgical world, and was a consultant for another five years for the Greater Chesapeake Hand Specialists, now Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder in Maryland in Lutherville, of which he was a founder and partner.

“He was a huge proponent of teaching orthopedic and hand surgeons and was a big part of the training program,” Dr. Higgins said. “Of our older generation of hand surgeons one-third had studied under Gaylord, and they would often say in the hallways, ‘Gaylord did it this way’ or ‘Gaylord would have suggested this.’”

In 1975, Dr. Clark joined fellow hand surgeons Dr. Frederick C. “Rik” Hansen Jr., Dr. Wilgis and Dr. Raymond M. Curtis in establishing the Raymond M. Curtis Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital, which grew into a regional leader in the repair and rehabilitation of hand and upper extremity injuries.

Dr. Clark was a genial presence who favored wearing hand-tied bow ties.

“The world sat still for Gaylord,” Dr. Higgins said. “It would stop so he could take in the impact of the moment.”

“Gaylord was gregarious and yet he was always the calmest person in the room. He was a calming influence and had a very attractive personality,” Dr. Bell said. “He was quite a guy and a great role model for me.”

A very social and amiable person, Dr. Clark had been a member of the board of the Valley Planning Council and was a member of the Wednesday Club.

He also had an insatiable spirit for adventure.

His son, Gaylord L. Clark III, is a former commercial fisherman who now operates a commercial poultry and egg farm with a seafood component business on the farm where he was raised. In his retirement, Dr. Clark and his wife of 65 years, the former Margery Levering Wolfe, worked as egg washers, sorters and packers.

An accomplished lifelong sailor, Dr. Clark made two monthlong trips in the late 1980s and early 1990s to Alaska to sail with his son aboard a 185-foot freezer trawler of which he was skipper.

Sailing in the rough and often perilous stormy waters of the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska, made Dr. Clark’s medical background useful.

“It kept my father busy treating a constant parade of ‘patients’ suffering minor lacerations, backaches, headaches, toothaches, joint aches and general malaise, and the occasional bona fide injury,” his son wrote in a biographical profile of his father.

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Dr. Clark made a final voyage with his son aboard a gillnetter in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and then “retired from active participation in the North Pacific fisheries,” his son wrote.

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Dr. Clark also enjoyed camping and canoeing.

Dr. Clark was a lifelong communicant of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Garrison. Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by another son, Peter Jefferson Clark of Los Angeles; two daughters, Jane Atkinson Clark Worthington of Randallstown and Margery Levering Clark Sheppard of Vail, Colorado; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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