Thomas E. Elkins, professor and director of the Division of Gynecologic Specialties at the School of Medicine and an advocate for gynecologic education and training in Africa, died Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 48.
Elkins, who joined the Hopkins faculty in July 1997, also was chief of pelvic reconstructive surgery and urogynecology. Named one of "America's Best Doctors for Women" in a 1997 Good Housekeeping poll of peers, the Cockeysville, Md., resident was considered an international authority on pelvic reconstructive surgery.
"Tom was an outstanding clinician and humanitarian who did much to advance women's health both in the United States and abroad," said Harold E. Fox, professor and chairman of gynecology and obstetrics. "He was well-loved by his colleagues, patients and students. We are grief-stricken by this loss of a colleague and friend."
Elkins was born in 1949 in Corpus Christi, Texas. He received his bachelor's degree from Baylor University, Waco, Texas, in 1972 and his medical degree with honors from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, in 1975. He later earned a master of arts in religion from Harding University, Memphis, Tenn., in 1984, specializing in marital-family counseling and ethics.
He pioneered new surgical approaches for pelvic relaxation, a syndrome affecting growing numbers of women in the aging U.S. population, and he lectured on this work to physician groups around the world.
In Ghana, West Africa, Elkins created a program to develop ob/gyn postgraduate training. When the program started in 1987, fewer than 10 ob/gyn consultants were practicing in the region. In January 1998, he attended the program's first graduation ceremony, moderating the scientific session and serving as main speaker at a banquet to honor the 14 physician graduates. Twenty-five more are expected to complete the program in the next five years.
An expert in bioethics, Elkins served on the American Academy of Pediatrics task force that formulated the infant bioethics committee guidelines for all neonatal nurseries. He had served on the National Professional Association task force to design a curriculum for teaching law in medicine.
Early in his career, Elkins did volunteer mission work as a physician in Africa and completed an internship in family medicine before completing his obstetrics and gynecology residency in 1980 at Naval Regional Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va. Before coming to Hopkins, he was on the faculties of the University of Tennessee Medical School, University of Michigan Medical School, Louisiana State University School of Medicine and Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
He developed model clinics for people with mental retardation and physical disabilities, and for nine years was a member of the National Down Syndrome Congress board of directors. He served on the editorial boards for several gynecology journals and was a member of numerous professional organizations. In his private life, he had served as a coach for youth sports, a Cub Scout master and church deacon.
A memorial service was held Saturday at Towson United Methodist Church. Additional services will be held in Texas.