Richard H. Morrow, 81, Johns Hopkins public health professor

Dr. Richard Harold Morrow Jr., a physician and Johns Hopkins public health official and who had worked in Ghana and Uganda, died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 17 at his home in the Bare Hills section of Baltimore County. He was 81.

Hopkins colleagues described him as a pioneer in international public health. He was the recipient of a 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Public Health Association's International Health Section.


"He was a man of both humility and brilliance," said Dr. Adnan A. Hyder, a Hopkins professor of international health, who lives in Lutherville. "Intellectually, he was one of the most creative public health physicians in his field. Personally, he was a man of respect. He would treat everyone the same — a first-year student or the director of the World Health Organization."

Born in Arlington Heights, Ill., he was the son of Richard Morrow, an inventor who sold a vacuum cleaner he designed and later invented a commercial paper bag opener used at McDonald's restaurants. His mother, Mary Blyth Morrow, attended the Sorbonne research university in Paris, spoke fluent French and was a homemaker.

Dr. Morrow earned a degree in economics at Swarthmore College and was a graduate of the Washington University Medical School in Saint Louis. He also earned a master's degree in public health at Harvard University, where he was later a professor.

While he was in medical school, he met his future wife, Helga Magnus, a nursing student from the Netherlands who was a Holocaust survivor.

"I had been on a blind date with his roommate and he asked me out. On our first date, he took me to the movie, 'The Red Balloon,'" his wife said. "A little later I found an enormous red balloon at my dormitory. There was note attached that said, 'This balloon led me to your door.'"

She said her husband performed his residency at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., and spent a year working with Navajo native Americans in Many Farms, Ariz.

"We lived in a converted Santa Fe Railroad refrigerator car," she said. "As a young man, he realized he wanted to improve the health of society, and not necessarily just treat individuals. He believed that a healthy society produces healthy individuals. And he believed that a healthy society is of economic benefit to a country."

In 1962, Dr. Morrow began his work in Africa. He and his wife moved to Ghana and helped establish a national institute of health. He worked in Accra at the Korle Bu Hospital. The country had recently received its independence and he fought endemic infectious diseases, including malaria. He later worked in Uganda from 1965 to 1970 while his wife was a Peace Corps nurse.

At that time, he studied the buruli ulcer, or sores on the legs and arms, a condition related to tuberculosis.

From 1970 to 1976, he was professor of public health at Harvard University. In 1976 he returned in Ghana for another three years of work. Before coming to Hopkins in 1991, he was director of epidemiology and field research for tropical disease research and training at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

"My husband looked at the whole concept of equality in medicine," his wife said. "He developed a theoretical approach to take the number of dollars you had and then you multiplied that money in a way to do the most good to the society. He believed the best way to spend our time together would be with the people who needed the most help."

She said Dr. Morrow never spoke badly of anyone and "always saw the best in people."

"He was a strong believer in developing the capacity of individuals," said Dr. Hyder, a close friend and Hopkins colleague. "His work was amazing. What he was doing in the 1970s was rediscovered in the 1990s."

Dr. Morrow retained close contacts with many of his students and with public health officials throughout the world.


"He never retired, and he never stopped mentoring his students," his wife said. "They truly came from all over the world and they called him day and night. He always took their calls. Many just needed some extra reassurance."

Before his death, Dr. Morrow established a scholarship for Bloomberg School public health students.

In a statement issued by the Bloomberg School, he was described as a "lifetime learner and educator, [who] will be remembered for his brilliance, grace, humor, curiosity, generosity and above all, his integrity. He believed in the goodness of mankind. The footprint he left behind is deep and permanent."

Plans for a life celebration at Hopkins are incomplete.

In addition to his wife of 54 years, survivors include a son, Dwight Morrow of West Chester, Pa.; three daughters, Densua Bloom of Stevenson, Odaybea Morrow of Oakton, Va. and Cynthia Morrow of Syracuse, N.Y.; a sister, Mary Duane of Denver, Colo.; and nine grandchildren.