Said one patient: "There is about him a kind of warm humanity and careful reflectiveness, concerning both the individual patient and the general disease. An interest in both is by no means universal among good doctors."
Theodore Bayless '54 was born in Atlantic City into a family with a keen interest in medicine. While at Bucknell, he met his future wife, Jaye Nides '54, who inspired and motivated him in his career.
In the early 1960s, a fellowship brought him to Johns Hopkins, where he began an academic "triathlon" of patient care, research and teaching, culminating in a named professorship of medicine. Over the course of this career, he has treated more than 5,000 patients suffering from a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. In each case, he has spent 90 minutes doing preliminary evaluations, a rarity in the field.
The time and investigative depth evident in this diagnostic platform led to discoveries revolutionizing patient care. Bayless was able to recognize that lactose intolerance was a genetic trait by studying patients with milk intolerance. This research inspired the innovation of lactose-hydrolyzed milk, "a commercial product for the millions who are lactose intolerant," which received the Franklin Institute Nutrition Medal in 1987.
Much of Bayless' work is with adolescents and adults suffering from Crohn's disease. Again, genetics proved essential in charting and improving patient outcomes. He was able to recognize disease patterns that recurred in families. One particularly grateful family provided funds to establish a genetics laboratory. Research generated from this facility helped to locate the main gene responsible for Crohn's Disease, verifying many of Bayless' observations.
Today the medical community has isolated more than 30 gene mutations, and new medications derived from this research are helping countless individuals to lead lives of greater ease and comfort.
A former patient, Richard Danzig, who served as Secretary of the Navy, recalls Bayless in this way: "There is about him a kind of warm humanity and careful reflectiveness, concerning both the individual patient and the general disease. An interest in both is by no means universal among good doctors."
Posted May 2010
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