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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 26, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 19
Obituary: Physicians James and Lidia Wenz killed in accident on I-83

James and Lidia Wenz with their children, Adrianna and James Jr., in March 2002

James and Lidia Wenz, highly regarded Johns Hopkins physicians who also trained here, were killed on Jan. 20 when their Hummer went out of control on Interstate 83, near the Timonium Road exit. According to the state police, the accident, which occurred at 1:17 a.m., took place when their vehicle hit a median, spun into a tractor-trailer and was then hit by a second tractor-trailer.

Their children, Adrianna, 8, and James Jr., 7, were injured in the accident and have been released from the hospital. Both truck drivers survived the crash as well.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the family was returning from a trip to the Adirondacks in Upstate New York, where they were planning to buy a facility to use as a summer camp for children and an education center for students studying for medical school entrance exams.

"Their death is a loss not just to their children but to the entire Johns Hopkins Medicine family and to the many patients who benefited from their skills," said JHM administration in an e-mail sent to all JHM employees shortly after the accident. As plans were being made for memorial services, the message continued, "We remind you of the enormous skills and promise lost to the world by their deaths."

A brilliant and innovative orthopedic surgeon, James Wenz, 40, was chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an attending surgeon at both Bayview and The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Child psychiatrist Lidia Wenz, 44, was an instructor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at the time of her death. She had been a full-time faculty member until 2001, when she left to spend more time with her children.

A New York City native, James Wenz received his bachelor's degree in 1987 in biomedical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he did extensive research on prosthetic devices and mechanical properties of articular cartilage, knowledge that he brought into practical application in orthopedics.

After receiving his medical degree from Johns Hopkins in 1991, he completed his orthopedic residency in 1996 at Hopkins Hospital, where he received specialized training in joint reconstruction surgery and then did a one-year fellowship with David Hungerford before joining the faculty in 1997. He concentrated on total hip and total knee replacement surgery, the treatment of osteonecrosis, revision surgery for failed joint replacements and the use of cartilage transplantation. Some of these advanced techniques incorporated the use of minimally invasive approaches. He performed hundreds of hip replacements through a four-inch incision rather than the standard 10 to 12 inches.

Frank Frassica, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, said, "Dr. James Wenz was the most brilliant innovator and technical surgeon ever to graduate from the Johns Hopkins Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Program. He was an advocate for resident education and patient safety. He will be tremendously missed not only by the Hopkins community but also on a regional and national level. He was a true gentleman and was universally loved by his patients, colleagues and friends."

Wenz's major areas of interest also included the care of fractures in geriatric patients. He was conducting research in alternative treatments of arthritis, joint replacement surgery, cartilage transplant techniques and osteonecrosis, as well as in reconstruction after failed joint replacement surgery. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Lidia Wenz received three degrees from the State University of New York in Buffalo: a B.S. in nursing in 1983, a B.A. in psychology in 1984 and an M.D. in 1990. She trained in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, serving as a resident from July 1990 until 1993 and then completing a fellowship in child psychiatry.

"Lidia was as good as they come," said Department of Psychiatry Director Dr. J. Raymond DePaulo Jr. "She was one of the best adult residents in her years of training and then became a wonderful child psychiatrist. We all were planning her return to the full-time faculty when her children were older. She as well as her husband will be sorely missed."

The Wenzes lived in Millersville, Md. A funeral service was planned for Saturday, Jan. 24, in nearby Pasadena. Plans for a memorial service were incomplete at press time.

A memory book is being compiled for the Wenz children by the book club that Lidia Wenz helped run. To share written reflections or photographs, send them to Memory Book/Chairman's Office, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, 601 N. Caroline St., Suite 5215, Baltimore, MD 21287-0881.

Donations may be made to the James and Lidia Wenz Memorial Fund, Johns Hopkins Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, 100 N. Charles St., Suite 418, Baltimore, MD 21201.


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