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Dr. William E. Woodward, an epidemiologist and expert in infectious diseases, conducted field studies in diarrheal diseases in what is now Bangladesh.
Dr. William E. Woodward, an epidemiologist and expert in infectious diseases, conducted field studies in diarrheal diseases in what is now Bangladesh. (HANDOUT)

Dr. William E. Woodward, an epidemiologist and an infectious disease expert who conducted field studies in diarrheal diseases in what is now Bangladesh, died Nov. 16 of leukemia at his Oxford home. The former longtime Westminster resident was 80.

“Bill was basically an epidemiologist who worked in diarrheal diseases. He was always in academia and public health-oriented,” said Dr. George T. Curlin, an internist and an expert in infectious diseases. “Bill was smart and had real creds in the academic community.”

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William Englar Woodward, the son of Dr. Theodore E. Woodward, a University of Maryland educator and an internationally known expert in infectious diseases, and his wife, Dr. Celeste L. Woodward, a Baltimore physician, was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park.

A 1957 graduate of Gilman School, where he was a champion state wrestler, lacrosse player and glee club member, Dr. Woodward earned a bachelor’s degree in 1961 from Princeton University, where he was a member of the wrestling team and glee club.

“This is an amazing story. We were classmates for 21 consecutive years starting with Calvert School and continuing on through Gilman, Princeton and Hopkins Medical School,” said Dr. James C. Gieske, a retired surgeon, who lives in Easton.

Dr. Woodward earned his medical degree in 1965 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed an internship and an assistant residency in internal medicine in 1967 from Vanderbilt University Hospital, now Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, Tennessee.

From 1967 to 1970, he served with the Epidemic Intelligence Service and the National Communicable Disease Center, now Centers for Disease Control, of the U.S. Public Health Service.

He was with the Enteric Disease Unit in Atlanta from 1967 to 1968, when he was assigned to the SEATO Cholera Research Laboratory in Dacca, East Pakistan, now the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, in what is now Bangladesh.

“Willy followed in his father’s footsteps who had been a global big shot in infectious diseases, tropical medicine and a noted teacher,” Dr. Gieske said. “Obviously he was very smart and he made many trips to Lahore and Bangladesh. It was an interest he inherited from his father and continued.”

Diarrhea was a major medical problem in Bangladesh, and Dr. Woodward was a member of a team that proved that oral rehydration therapy employing water, salt and sugar could bring diarrhea under control.

“It was first practiced in a controlled clinic and then it was Bill’s job to take it to the field with his team and proved that it worked,” Dr. Curlin said. “It was a landmark team and they did the first demonstrations.”

“He proved that it worked," said his wife of 18 years, Ingrid Blanton, a retired floral designer, "and it saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

An earlier marriage to Susan Samras ended in divorce.

After leaving the U.S. Public Health Service in 1970, Dr. Woodward was named a fellow in infectious diseases in 1971 and held the fellowship for a year at the old Baltimore City Hospitals, now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

In 1971, he also became a co-investigator with the National Institute of Health-Johns Hopkins Diarrhea Project at Fort Apache Reservation in White River, Arizona, and was an assistant professor of medicine at Hopkins from 1971 to 1973, when he was appointed assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a position he held until 1978.

Dr. Woodward was an associate professor of medicine at Maryland from 1978 to 1979, when he joined the faculty of the University of Texas Medical School in Houston as an associate professor of medicine. He was also associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health, also in Houston, from 1979 to 1983.

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During those same years, he was a co-investigator with the Diarrheal Disease Project, United States-Egypt Joint Working Group Subcommittee on Biomedical Research. From 1986 to 1989, he was a co-investigator of malaria volunteer studies, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Dr. Woodward served as corporate medical director of McCormick & Co. in Baltimore from 1983 to 1989. He had been a research associate in Maryland’s Department of Internal Medicine, research associate professor in Maryland’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, and an associate in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Hygiene.

He also had been a consultant to St. Agnes Hospital, the World Health Organization cholera consultant to Nigeria and Liberia, U.S. Agency for International Development consultant on sanitation, health and nutrition to the governments of Chile and Brazil.

From 1994 until retiring in 2009, Dr. Woodward was associate medical director at Carroll Hospice.

During his career, he was the author of 55 medical journal articles, nine textbook chapters and 17 abstracts.

Dr. Woodward and Dr. Curlin had been colleagues in Bangladesh from 1969 to 1970, and thereafter saw each other only at medical conventions.

“We were moving to Oxford in 2011 and the neighbors knew that a doctor was moving in but they didn’t know his name,” Dr. Curlin. “We moved in and found out we were Bill’s neighbors.”

He described Dr. Woodward as “reserved with a quiet sense of humor. He was really not gregarious.”

“He was a gentle soul and a very kind and caring person,” Dr. Gieske said. “He was a man who cared deeply about his family and friends. He was a true friend and a very loyal and kindhearted person.”

Dr. Woodward, who had played rugby while in medical school, was an avid Orioles and Ravens fan.

Another hobby of Dr. Woodward’s, whose family farm in Carroll County dated to 1742, was compiling the cause of death of county residents, especially those that were farm-related.

Services are private.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Woodward is survived by three sons, Harris Woodward of Laurel, Lewis Woodward of Arnold and Matthew Woodward of Bethesda; two daughters, Alex Dildine of Baltimore and Lauren Stanley of Austin, Texas; a stepson, David Blanton of Big Bear, California; a sister, Dr. Celeste Woodward Applefeld of Baltimore; and 15 grandchildren.

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