John Nelson Dowling

Born: September 22, 1940
Died: January 9, 2019

John N. Dowling was born in Washington, D.C. son of Dr. Harry Filmore Dowling and Edith Minnie Laine Dowling. John resided his first 10 years in Washington, until 1950. That year his father was appointed head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine. John graduated from Hinsdale Township (Ill.) High School in 1958 where he was active in sports, especially cross-country and track.

At Yale, John was a member of Pierson, a Yale Aide, and member of W1YU and the Psychology Club. He was a psychology honors major. He roomed with Grey Freeman, who predeceased him.

After graduation John pursued his medical career 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.

John’s internship at Cincinnati General Hospital was followed by a dual residency in internal medicine and preventative medicine at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center at Syracuse.

After his residency, John was commissioned a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Medical Corps. He was detailed to the Naval Air Station at Gaeta, Italy outside Naples where 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.

His hobby was model trains and he had an extensive layout of tracks and train models of the Norfolk and Western Railroad.

In 2002, he described his career as follows:

After a full career in academic medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, I decided to pursue my interest in computers and computing. I became a Fellow (post-graduate student) in Biomedical Informatics (the application of computing to medicine) at the Center for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh. After two years of class work and research, I received a master’s degree a few months ago. I am now joining a research team interested in natural language processing, namely, the automatic extraction of information from written medical records such as physicians’ history and physical exams and radiology reports. The long-term goal of this work is to assist professionals in deciding whether a bioterrorist’s work or a naturally occurring epidemic is in progress and the nature of the biological agent.

John was married for 22 years, until 1999. His wry comments re-entering the singles scene enlivened his biography in our 40th Reunion Class Book. He listed his marital status as “married” in our 50th Reunion Book in 2012 without further details. However, there is no mention of a spouse in his obituary in the Smithfield (Virginia) Times published on February 13, 2019. John died on January 9, 2019, after a long illness.

He was survived by his brothers, Filmore Dowling and William Dowling, and by many nephews, nieces and cousins. His cousins Connie Y. Henderson and Anne Yeoman and his close friend Carroll Jenkins were by his side when he died. A graveside service was conducted at the family plot in St. Luke’s Cemetery in Smithfield Virginia.