Dr. Sandra Lee Butchart, the former chief pathologist at two local hospitals, died of pulmonary disease Monday at the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson. The former Ruxton resident was 77.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Lutherville, she was the daughter of Harold Willis Blondin, who owned an insurance business, and his wife, Dorothy Nase. She was a 1959 graduate of Towson High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Dickinson University. She went on to the University of Maryland School of Medicine and received her degree in 1967.
“From a young age she wanted to be a physician,” said her daughter, Melissa Withrow of Havre de Grace. “In medical school, she got flak. She was told by professors she was taking a man’s job.”
A 1979 article in The Sun said she was encouraged to pursue medicine by a neighbor, Dr. Russell S. Fisher, who was Maryland’s chief medical examiner for 35 years and a well-known forensic pathologist. Dr. Fisher helped her get a summer job at Maryland General Hospital’s lab.
“The inquisitive Baltimore teen-ager learned to make tissue slides that first summer, watched a couple of autopsies and had a couple of nightmares, the article said. “But Sandra Blondin kept coming back during college vacations to draw blood and work in blood analyzing, then as a medical student at Maryland, which is affiliated with Maryland General.”
She was an intern at San Francisco General Hospital from 1967 to 1968 and did her residency training in pathology at Maryland General Hospital in downtown Baltimore on Howard Street. She was then a captain in the Army and was stationed in South Korea.
She married Dr. John Butchart, a fellow medical student, in 1968. They later divorced but remained friends and traveled together.
She joined the pathology department of Maryland General Hospital. In 1979, her friend and mentor, Dr. Wilson Toll, suggested that she apply for the position of chief of pathology, which had become vacant.
She got the job.
The 1979 article about her in The Sun was headlined, “Hospital’s pathology chief worked her way up in field.” It noted that she “has the distinction at age 38 of being named the first woman chief of service in the hospital’s 98-year history and of being one of the first in any hospital in Baltimore.”
Dr. Butchart beat 60 other applicants for the post, which was widely advertised in medical journals.
“Her competence as a pathologist already was known to the other principal physicians at the hospital and when they all sat down to talk with her, they decided she had an excellent grasp of priorities, one of the physicians said,” The Sun article reported.
“One of the most sensitive areas her department deals with is in the role of checking all tissues removed during surgery. The findings go to a peer review committee in the hospital that is supposed to keep check on how much removed tissue is healthy and how much diseased.”
She said of her job: “It’s really like a puzzle in a way. I’ve always liked it.”
In 1985 she was recruited by an executive of Franklin Square Hospital to be its head of pathology.
“She loved Maryland General and had fond memories of it. She accepted a new challenge and worked to turn Franklin’s lab into a better place. My mother was a highly respected pathologist and cytopathologist,” said her daughter, “During her career she taught and mentored countless numbers of residents and laboratory technologists.”
She retired 12 years ago.
Dr. Butchart owned an Island Packet sailboat and spent some of her free time on the Chesapeake Bay on outings with her family and friends. She was also a subscriber to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the old Baltimore Opera Company. She traveled widely.
After living on Ellenham Avenue in Ruxton, she moved to Edenwald in Towson, where she played bridge several times a week and ran its library.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.