John Nelson Dowling

Published 12:41 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019

John Nelson Dowling died peacefully on Jan. 9, 2019, after a long illness.  His cousins, Connie Y. Henderson and Anne Yeoman, and close friend Carroll Jenkins were by his side. John was preceded in death by his parents, Edith Laine Dowling and Harry F. Dowling.  He is survived by his brothers, Filmore Dowling and William Dowling, and by his niece, Elisabeth Root; nephews Laine Dowling II and Patrick Dowling; and their children. Additional first cousins are Elliott Russell Laine, Herbert Laine, William E. Laine, Elliott Laine, Carolyn Dundalow, and Alfred Hingerty.

John was born in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, 1940.  The Dowling family moved to Hinsdale, Illinois — a suburb of Chicago — in 1950 when his father was appointed head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine. John graduated from Hinsdale Township High School in 1958.  He was active in sports, especially cross-country and track.

John earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1962, followed by two years at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., from which his father had graduated many years earlier.  With a strong interest in clinical training, he then transferred to the University of Illinois School of Medicine where he received his medical degree in 1966.

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John’s internship at Cincinnati General Hospital was followed by a dual residency in internal medicine and preventive medicine at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center at Syracuse. After his residency, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Medical Corps and sent to the Naval Air Station at Naples, Italy. He served as the epidemiologist dispatched to address disease outbreaks on the many ships and shore stations of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet across the Mediterranean Sea.

John had always intended to pursue academic medicine. After his Navy service, he joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the Department of Medicine as an infectious disease specialist. While at Pittsburgh, John also pursued advanced training in the emerging field of biomedical informatics, earning a M.S. in that field and serving on the faculty of the Department of Biomedical Informatics. The many generations of medical students and residents he helped train regarded him highly as an excellent teacher. He was also active in medical research, and with several colleagues, was one of the first clinicians to identify and then treat the bacterium that causes Legionnaires Disease after a number of American Legion conference attendees were suddenly brought to the emergency room at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1976.

After 30 years at the University of Pittsburgh, John retired in 2006 and moved from Pittsburgh to the Broadmead Retirement Community in Cockeysville, Md. There he served on resident committees concerned with medical affairs and technology. While he was unable to take his extensive Norfolk and Western Railroad trains and layout with him, he maintained his interest in railroading history.

There will be a graveside service at the family plot in St. Luke’s Cemetery in Smithfield, at a date to be announced.