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December 7, 2013

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: Wiley alumnus E. Grey Dimond reaches lifetime goal

TERRE HAUTE — The day Dr. E. Grey Dimond was born in 1918 was his mother’s birthday. Had he lived a few more weeks, he would be celebrating his 95th birthday today, Dec. 8.

Instead, a memorial service will be held for Dimond today in Kansas City, where he  founded the University of Missouri-Kansas City Medical School. Dr. Dimond, who was raised in Terre Haute from age 7, died Nov. 8, 2013.

The son of Edmunds “Eddie” and Gertrude “Gertie” Schmidt Dimond was born in St. Louis, where his mother was visiting to do some Christmas shopping.

The child was christened Edmunds Grey Whitehead Dimond, Jr. Burdens accompanying that handle were alleviated when his mother begin to call him “Jack.”

Dimond was known as Jack during his Terre Haute school days, which included Sarah Scott Junior High and Wiley High School, where he graduated in 1937. At Wiley he excelled in football, where he played left end, and track.

The Dimond family lived in apartments at 1804 S. Seventh St. and the Edgewood Apartments on McKinley Blvd.  in Edgewood Grove. During high school Jack spent all day on many summer days playing golf at the Memorial Stadium golf course.

His father was a traveling pharmaceutical salesman for Eli Lilly and subscribed to several medical journals. Jack read the magazines and set his sights on becoming a doctor.

On Jack’s 18th birthday in 1936, Gertie Dimond admonished her only child to refer to himself in adulthood as “Grey.” Not only did the youth lose his nickname that year but it appeared as if his hopes to attend medical school evaporated when his father was put on probation by his employer for drinking and gambling.

Young Dimond took a factory job and enrolled in classes at Indiana State Teachers College. After 18 months he was offered a football scholarship to Purdue University. In two years he completed 90 credit hours and, in 1941, transferred to Indiana University.

Due to World War II, four years of medical school was reduced to 36 intense months without a spring or summer break. He earned an M.D. from IU in 1944. His dedicated mother was a cancer victim, at age 45, on July 5, 1943 and, sadly, did not see her son reach his goal.

The time Dimond expended specializing in cardiology also was condensed. As part of his duties, Grey read medical journals to Dr. Henry Baum, the chief cardiologist who was going blind. It was an extraordinary experience.

His meetings with Dr. Baum became private tutoring sessions, permitting Dimond to learn about the heart, its diseases and the latest research by world renowned cardiologists.

He also learned about some of Dr. Baum’s most challenging patients.

Dimond’s link with Dr. Baum resulted in his appointment as chief of cardiology of the Far East command to complete his mandatory two-year military requirement. After a tour of duty in Japan following the war, he completed his residency as a Clinical Fellow to Dr. Paul Dudley White, the celebrated cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

In 1950, at age 31, Dimond was named director of the cardiovasculatory laboratory  at the University of Kansas Medical Center at a time when the department consisted of an electrocardiograph machine (EKG), one nurse/technician and one Adirondack chair.

When Dr. Dimond was named chairman of the University of Kansas (KU) Department of Medicine in 1952, he was the youngest medical school chairman in the U.S. In October 2011, Grey was presented the KU Honorary Medical Alumnus Award for outstanding contributions to the medical school and medicine in general.

In 1959, at age 40, he founded the cardiopulmonary unit at Scripps Cardiovascular  Research Center in La Jolla, Cal. Two years later, he was elected president of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and embarked on a successful effort to expand its visibility.

Among other things, he developed a postgraduate course in Rancho Sante Fe, Cal., which he taught. He also produced a monthly ACC audiotape from 1967 to 1977.

Meanwhile, Dimond wrote prodigiously in journals about recent advances in cardiology and his travels, particularly his multiple diplomatic trips to the People’s Republic of China. Journalist Edgar Snow, Dimond’s friend, arranged the pioneer first visit.

He first graced the cover of “Modern Medicine” in May 1966. While working as a government consultant in Washington three years later, he began planning a new medical school for the University of Missouri at Kansas City. His plan embraced an innovative six-year (11 months each year) B.A.-M.D. curriculum for exceptional students.

Dr. Dimond served as the first provost of the medical school but retired from his official supervisory duties in 1988 to reside at Diastole Scholar Center, a spectacular retreat he created in 1977 with his 1st wife, Mary Clark Dimond. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 physicians have graduated UMKC Medical School.

He remained active reading, writing, traveling, sculpting and sharing time with his daughters — Sherry Grey Byrer of Terre Haute; Lark Grey Dimond-Cats of Rancho Sante Fe, Cal.; and Lea Grey Dimond-Guettar of San Francisco — and adopted daughter from China, Joan Wu-Chang.

Daughter Lark was commissioned to design bronze sculptures for the  multi-million dollar national memorial and park in Springfield, Mass., honoring her stepfather, Theodor Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss.”

Dimond published well over a thousand academic essays, articles and audiotapes, as well as 18 books, including three autobiographies, “Take Wing!” (1991), “Milestone 80” (2000) and “Essays from an Unfinished Physician,” (2000).

By his own words, Dimond expended “a lifetime working to get some place.” Surely, he has more than reached his goal.

Today’s memorial service will be conducted at 1 p.m. on the campus of UMKC in Kansas City. Dr. Dimond’s ashes will be interred in a family cemetery in Winona, Miss.

Memorial contributions may be made to the E. Grey Dimond Memorial Fund, c/o Diastole, Hospital Hill, 2501 Holmes St., Kansas City, Mo. 64108.

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