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June 2009
Feature Story

John B. Henry, MD

1928–2009

John B. Henry, MD, a CAP governor from 1993–1999 and an important contributor to clinical pathology as a discipline, died in Skaneateles, NY, on April 10 at the age of 80.

“Dr. Henry had a major impact on the practice of pathology,” says Gregory A. Threatte, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology at the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University at Syracuse. “When he began his career,” Dr. Threatte says, “clinical pathology had a much smaller identity than it does today, and if you look at its growth as a discipline within pathology, you will find that much of it followed his career.”

A native of Elmira, NY, Dr. Henry graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1955. After interning at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis in 1956, he completed four years of graduate medical study at Columbia–Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City and then at New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, and was recruited in 1960 as associate professor of pathology and director of the clinical pathology laboratories at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He moved to the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in 1964 as professor of pathology and director of clinical pathology, and in 1979 became dean of Georgetown University School of Medicine and chairman of its executive faculty. He returned to SUNY Upstate in 1985 when the medical university (formerly called the medical center) named him its fourth president.

During his tenure at SUNY Upstate, Dr. Henry served as founding dean of the university’s College of Health Related Professions, which included the university’s School of Nursing, and led the effort to create the Institute for Human Performance, which today is a large research facility at SUNY Upstate, says Dr. Threatte. Dr. Henry secured the construction of a new library at the SUNY Upstate medical campus and of the East Wing of the school’s main facility, which was a major addition to the University Hospital and the base of the Children’s Hospital.

Calling him “a very down-to-earth, engaging person who was always looking forward rather than mentioning his many accomplishments,” Dr. Threatte points to the textbook of which Dr. Henry was first a co-editor and then editor, Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, as another example of his quiet efforts. “You wouldn’t have known all the work he had done on it if someone else didn’t tell you,” Dr. Threatte says, “but that book is today the most widely used reference in clinical pathology, and most clinical pathologists can be counted on to have a copy of it.”

Frederick R. Davey, MD, chair of the Department of Pathology at SUNY Upstate Medical University from 1988 through 2000, says Dr. Henry encouraged his staff and residents to write and contribute to the textbook and other publications. “And they did, and they then developed reputations for themselves,” Dr. Davey says, adding that Dr. Henry was well known nationally as early as the 1960s and the force behind his own entry into clinical writing and his own contributions to the famous textbook. “He was a man of enormous energy,” Dr. Davey says, “and very good at educating younger physicians.”

A member of the CAP for more than 40 years, Dr. Henry served in the 1990s as vice chair of the Council on Education and Membership Services and as chair of the Credentials Committee. He held memberships at different times on the Finance Committee and on the Public Affairs, Practice Management, and Practice and Education councils. He became an emeritus member in 2003.

Dr. Henry also had principal roles in other medical organizations, including those of president of the American Association of Blood Banks in 1970 and 1971, American Board of Pathology from 1976 to 1978, American Blood Commission from 1978 to 1980, and American Society of Clinical Pathologists in 1980 and 1981. He won the CAP/ASCP Distinguished Service Award and the S.C. Dyke Founder Award of the Royal Society of Medicine, and he was named a Distinguished Service Professor by the SUNY board of trustees.

A lieutenant and then a captain in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy Reserve, from which he retired in 1995, Dr. Henry won the Navy’s Commendation Medal for Meritorious Achievement and its Meritorious Service Medal. As an avid skier and sailing enthusiast, he served for 30 years on an upstate New York ski patrol and was a coach and advisor to the Georgetown University sailing team.

Dr. Henry is survived by his wife, four sons, two daughters, and 12 grandchildren.