Dr. Karen E. King, a pathologist who treated blood disorders and patients who were undergoing organ transplants, died of cancer complications Jan. 5 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she had headed a division.
The North Roland Park resident was 56.
“Karen was one of those rare people whom everyone loved. Just everyone," said Dr. Redonda G. Miller, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Her impact on clinical care at the hospital was profound. Through both her innovative spirit and her kindness and compassion, she truly made a difference for our patients.”
Born in New York City and raised in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Dr. Theodore M. King, a Hopkins physician, and his wife, Lily Y. King.
She was a 1978 graduate of McDonogh School and obtained a bachelor’s degree at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she became an active alumna and committee member.
She was a 1986 graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She performed a residency in pathology and a fellowship in transfusion medicine.
She was also a pianist who studied at the Peabody Conservatory and in France at the École des Beaux-Arts at Fountainebleau.
She joined the Hopkins Medical School faculty in 1996 and achieved the rank of professor in 2016.
“Karen brought immense enthusiasm, hope, and strength to all that she did, and it was through these unique qualities that she cared for patients, taught students and colleagues, pioneered new horizons in transfusion medicine, and battled cancer until the very end,” said Drs. Linda Resar and Alison Moliterno in a statement. “Karen was known for her intellect, energy, and brilliant smile, which she shared freely with her family, friends, colleagues, and the many students, residents and fellows whom she taught.”
“She was absolutely adored by our residents and fellows. She was a beloved teacher, too, and was given the Resident’s Teaching Award,” said Dr. Ralph Hruban, Baxley Professor and director of the Hopkins pathology department.
“First and foremost, she led by example and inspired others by her indefatigable efforts on behalf of her patients and trainees,” said Dr. Hruban. “Karen encouraged those around her to dream big and realize all that their careers could evolve into. She also encouraged them to shy away from pre-established conventions.”
He also said Dr. King “opened the door for blood-group incompatible organ transplantation. Through her work in pathology and transfusion medicine, she was affectionately known as the institution’s ‘interventional pathologist.’
“Perhaps more than most anything else, Karen was an inspiration to all of those who have worked with her over the years,” he said.
She was both a physician and a scientist. Colleagues said she built the Hemapheresis and Transfusion Support Division at Hopkins from the ground up. They described this program as providing specialized transfusion care to patients with complicated medical disorders.
“She was a prolific scientist and imparted her knowledge and expertise through medical literature and 60 lectures throughout the world,” said Dr. Hruban.
Her colleagues said Dr. King was an expert in apheresis and the management of complex immunologic and blood disorders, including sickle-cell anemia, cancer, neurologic disorders and organ transplantation.
The American Association of Blood Banks awarded her its 2017 Presidential Award.
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She established an exchange program in which students from Japan came to study at Hopkins, and Hopkins students had the opportunity to study there.
She enjoyed watching her two daughters at the National Debutante Cotillion and Thanksgiving Ball in Washington.
“Above all, Karen was committed to her family and children,” said her husband, Porter N. Siems. “”When she gave a talk or a lecture, she had a way of taking complex subjects and humanizing them and making them more understandable. She would also sneak in a photograph of one of children when she was speaking.”
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.
In addition to her husband of 30 years, who runs a real estate management firm, survivors include a son, Matthew P.K. Siems of Baltimore; two daughters, Lilly V. K. Siems of Baltimore and Elizabeth M. K. Siems of San Francisco; her mother, Lily Y. King of Baltimore; and her brother, Dr. Theodore M. King of Monkton.