Dr. Thomas R. Hendrix, leader in the fields of gastric and liver disease

Dr. Thomas Russell Hendrix

Dr. Thomas Russell Hendrix, a leader in the fields of gastric and liver disease, died of complications from heart surgery Dec. 23 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 93 and lived in Roland Park before moving to Chestertown.

Dr. Hendrix, who pioneered studies in gluten intolerance, swallowing disorders and diarrheal disease, led his department at Hopkins for 31 years.


"He had patients from all over the world," said his son, Paul Hendrix, also of Chestertown. "He was the gastroenterologist of last resort."

Born in Fort Ancient, Ohio, he moved with his family to a farm in Tarzana, Calif., when he was 5. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles from 1938 until 1941, when he entered the Navy. He was a lieutenant commander during World War II and a communications officer on Adm. Chester Nimitz's staff.


He was a navigator and officer in the combat information center on a destroyer escort, the USS Mitchell, and served at sea in the war zone from June 1944 to December 1945. He participated in actions in the Pacific from the invasion of the Marianas to the surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Dr. Hendrix met Sonia Arusell just before entering military service. They had but one date and wrote each other weekly letters through the duration of the war. They married in late 1945.

He completed his senior year at UCLA, and the couple moved to Baltimore, where he earned a medical degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1951. He served under Dr. A. McGehee Harvey on the Osler Medical Service.

As a young physician, Dr. Hendrix was asked by Hopkins senior staff members to take additional study in Boston. He trained under Dr. Franz Ingelfinger, and when he returned to Baltimore, he became the founding director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

"He initiated an excellent training program and also organized and ran a fine division, " said Dr. Richard Johns, the retired chief of Hopkins Biomedical Engineering. "He also had an excellent sense of humor and was just a delightful person."

"He saw his primary role as an educator and has influenced the medical education of many students, fellows and house staff," said his daughter, Carla Hendrix of Elizabethtown, N.Y.

"He was passionate that the understanding of gastroenterology physiology was absolutely required for physicians to provide the highest level of care," said Dr. Mark Donowitz, who followed him as division chief. "He was good at presenting science that everyone could understand. He was often asked to see the most difficult cases. ... His opinions were followed."

Dr. Hendrix published more than 120 scientific articles and many book chapters.

"He was a magnificent man," said Dr. Richard Ross, former dean of the Hopkins Medical School. "He came to Hopkins when I was a first-year assistant resident. He became my friend and my idol. ... He was a thorough doctor and was just great with his patients."

Dr. Hendrix served as the president of the American Gastroenterological Association from 1983 to 1984.

"He was the man to go to when others failed," said Linda Welch, his secretary for three decades, who lives in Reisterstown. "He was a naturally kind man. He would step aside in an elevator to let people off and would bring in roses from his garden. He knew all their different types."

She said he treated patients with achalasia, a difficulty in swallowing. He also showed that when patients are gluten intolerant, and they stopped eating gluten products, the pathology of their intestines changed for the better.


"He was a doctor in full. He worked with patients, was a teacher and was an investigator. His sense of calm and competence shone out," said Dr. Paul R. McHugh, psychiatrist in chief at Hopkins from 1975 to 2011. "He had a doctoring grace about him. He was also a leader in his family."

Dr. Hendrix stepped down as the director of the Division of Gastroenterology in 1988 and retired as chairman of the Johns Hopkins Joint Committee on Clinical Investigation in 2001. He remained active in medical societies.

After living on Somerset Road in Roland Park, where he raised many varieties of roses, he retired to Chestertown. Family members said he enjoyed sailing, model boat building, gardening, writing and continuing his education in the humanities at Washington College.

A memorial service will be held in the spring.

In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include two sons, Eric Hendrix of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Mark Hendrix of Berkeley, Calif.; another daughter, Ingrid Hendrix of Albuquerque, N.M.; a brother, John Hendrix of Fort Collins, Colo.; a sister, Mary Thorpe of Fiddletown, Calif.; and four step-grandchildren. His wife of 63 years died in 2009.

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