Dr. Michael T. Crow, an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who was director of research in the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, died last Tuesday of Alzheimer’s disease at Stella Maris Hospice. The former Cockeysville and Roland Park resident was 66.
“Mike was a very, very serious scientist and a very good one. He was a perfectionist," said Dr. Kenneth C. Boheler, a research professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Hopkins.
“He designed very good experiments and was always seeking to understand the situation and explain it to others,” said Dr. Boheler, an Odenton resident. “He was a very bright man who could understand problems readily. Mike was not someone who ever sought the spotlight. He was interested in doing the science and doing it well.”
Michael Thomas Crow, the son of William Snyder Crow, a salesman, and his wife, Eleanor Louise Klimas, a credit union bank manager, was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, where he graduated from Father Ryan High School.
He attended the Jesuit Seminary in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, until leaving in his late teens when he decided to pursue a career in science. In 1976, he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Dr. Crow was awarded a full scholarship to medical school at Harvard University, where he completed a doctorate in physiology in 1981. From 1981 to 1984, he completed postdoctoral training and met his future wife, the former Shirley Ross, whom he married in 1984.
From 1990 to 2002, when he joined the faculty of Hopkins’ School of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, he was an investigator and head of the National Institute on Aging’s Vascular Biology Section at Johns Hopkins’ Bayview Medical Center.
Dr. Crow was director of research in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine from 2002 until 2016, when he retired because of failing health.
His research focus was on the molecular and cellular study of muscle cells, trying to determine why they die.
“He showed that differences among muscle fiber types were programmed during development and that nerves play only a tertiary role in this process,” Dr. Boheler wrote in a biographical profile of Dr. Crow.
“Using innovative molecular approaches, he went on to define the role of cardiac fibroblasts in promoting fibrosis and programmed cell death (apoptosis). His greatest contribution centered on his study of an endogenous inhibitor of cell death in the heart termed apoptosis repressor with caspase recruitment,” he wrote. “This protein protected cardiomyocytes from (ischemic) injury and prevented maladaptive remodeling that would otherwise lead to heart failure.”
Dr. Boheler described Dr. Crow’s research as “groundbreaking.”
“His research led to include studies ranging from striated muscle to cancer,” he wrote. “These results helped establish Dr. Crow as an expert in the signaling pathways that controlled striated muscle signaling and cell death, including autophagy.”
Dr. Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, an internationally known pulmonary physician-scientist and the Dr. Merlin K. DuVal Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, was director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Hopkins from 1998 to 2005.
Dr. Garcia recalled in an email that he was impressed with Dr. Crow’s papers when he was at the National Institute on Aging.
“I wanted to meet him and hopefully collaborate with him. I was quickly impressed by his warmth, scientific prowess, by his dedication to science, and by his unbelievable generosity in sharing his precious reagents,” he wrote.
Eventually, Dr. Garcia was successful in recruiting Dr. Crow to join his division.
“Fortunately, I successfully wore him down and he joined our division. Mike was a terrific mentor, a highly respected and complete team player, who raised our scientific rigor and quality across the entire division doing so with significant elegance,” he wrote.
“Mike was a prince of a man, very outgoing and very humble despite his outstanding scientific acumen. ... I respected Mike very much, and we will all miss his gentle and loving spirit.”
“Dr. Crow had a unique ability to challenge his students and collaborators to be scientifically better and to seek the truth,” Dr. Boheler wrote. “This ability stemmed both from his intellect and from his broad but balanced approach to science that could serve as a standard for the scientific community.”
He added: “The passing of Dr. Crow will profoundly affect those who knew him best, but fortunately, his vision for scientific truth will live on through the individuals he mentored and the scientists with whom he interacted.”
A knowledgeable connoisseur of fine wines, Dr. Crow was especially fond of cabernets and pinot noirs, according to Dr. Garcia. He also enjoyed playing the flute and riding his bike on the Northern Central Railroad Trail.
His marriage ended in divorce.
A celebration of Dr. Crow’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium.