Lives of the fellows

Carroll Lockard Conley

b.14 May 1915 d.30 January 2010
BSc(1935) MD Columbia(1940) FRCP(1979)

Carroll Lockyard Conley ('Lock') was a distinguished American haematologist who instigated groundbreaking research into blood coagulation, blood platelets, haemorrhagic diseases, haemoglobins and sickle cell anaemia.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, where his father owned an oyster packing firm, he was educated at Forest Park High School, graduating in 1931. After obtaining a degree in biology from Johns Hopkins University, he proceeded to study medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, qualifying in 1940. He was an intern at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital before joining the US Army Medical Corps. Throughout the Second World War he served as a major in Alabama at the Maxwell Field Hospital for the Air Corps, treating injured airman and instructing them on the use of oxygen. He later wrote that ‘we would take them up in simulated high altitudes and let them faint to convince them that they really needed oxygen’.

In 1946 he joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins Medical School and was appointed head of the newly formed division of haematology the following year. Some years later, in 1956, he became the first physician at Johns Hopkins who was not head of a department at the school of medicine to become a full professor. He was named a ‘University Distinguished Professor of Medicine’ in 1976. On retiring from Johns Hopkins in 1980, he was appointed a distinguished senior clinician at the US Public Health Service Hospital in Baltimore, located at the Wyman Park Hospital, where he established a teaching programme for medical students which he ran for seven years.

Over the years he made many significant contributions to his field including, developing a therapy for vitamin B-12 deficiency, discovering and describing lupus anticoagulants in 1947 and producing in 1953 (with Ernest W Smith) a method of separating the components haemoglobin on filter paper using electrophoresis – a process which enabled proper haemoglobin analysis and facilitated the study of sickle cell anaemia. Previously only five or six patients had had their haemoglobin analysed because the equipment for doing so, developed by the Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling, was very complicated and expensive. Using cheap homemade apparatus, Conley and Smith were able to do literally hundreds of such analyses in a day. They published the research as ‘Filter paper electrophoresis of human hemoglobins with special reference to the incidence and clinical significance of hemoglobin C’ (Bull Johns Hopkins Hosp 1953 93 94-106).

He was known to have followed up some of his patients with sickle cell anaemia for nearly 40 years. David Hellman, a rheumatologist who had been one of his students, commented that he was ‘legendary for maintaining long follow up of his patients – in part because he was always curious about his patients and in part because his patients knew he had saved their lives and that he would and could help them’. Hellman further remarked that ‘time and again I saw Dr Conley rapidly make a correct diagnosis in a patient whose medical problems had stumped many other experts’.

Praised as an inspiring teacher, many of his former students progressed to distinguished careers. In 2002 four of his former students, including Sir David Weatherall, former regious professor of medicine at Oxford, published a textbook of haematology which they dedicated to Conley, and Weatherall commented in the forward that he could think of no one else who had influenced him more in the way he thought about patient care and medical research. The American College of Physicians honoured his skills by creating an annual C Lockyard Conley award in medical education.

He published over 120 articles and book chapters and was on the editorial boards of many medical journals. In 1976 he was president of the American Society of Hematology.

In the early 1940s he married a nurse, Edith Martina née DeYoung. She predeceased him and, when he died of Parkinson’s disease, he was survived by their daughters, Anne Weaver, a paediatrician in Amhurst, Massachusetts, and Jean Alexander, a horticulturalist in Silver Spring, Maryland, two grandchildren and four great-children.

RCP editor

[Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._Lockard_Conley - accessed 15 April 2015; Johns Hopkins Univ Gazette http://gazette.jhu.edu/2010/02/08/c-lockard-conley-94-pioneering-hematologist - accessed 15 April 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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