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Former CC Director Decker Dies

Dr. John Laws Decker,Clinical Center director and NIH associate director for clinical care from 1983 until his retirement in 1990, died of a heart arrythmia July 13 in Bethesda.

During his retirement, he remained active at the Clinical Center, serving as author, and in later editions contributing editor, of Protomechanics, A Guide to Preparing and Conducting a Clinical Research Study. He also was a consultant to the FDA.

Dr. John Laws Decker

Decker steered the Clinical Center through challenging times. He said in a 1990 interview, "The most challenging aspect of my years here has been trying to do all that I could to accelerate the changes required by Congress in reference to research on AIDS. It was a brand new disease when I took over the directorship."

Major advances at the CC during his tenure included development of the positron emission tomography program and clinical use of magnetic resonance imaging.

Decker came to NIH in 1965 as a chief of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch in what is now the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, serving as clinical director from 1976 to 1980 and scientist emeritus following his retirement in 1990.

A native of New York and the son of missionary parents, he grew up in China and returned to the U.S. for his education. A World War II Navy veteran, he served in the Pacific and received the Purple Heart.

A graduate of the University of Richmond, he earned his M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1951. From 1951 to 1955, he completed his internship and residency requirements at Presbyterian Hospital in New York. He went on as a research fellow in medicine at Harvard University and at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he received training in rheumatology. Before coming to NIH, Decker was on the faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle.

His studies in rheumatic diseases earned him international recognition. Among his awards: the Philip Hench Award from the Association of Military Surgeons in 1972, the NIH Director's Award in 1977, the Alessandro Robecchi International Prize for Rheumatology Research on nephritis of systemic lupus erythematosus in 1983, and the PHS Superior Service Award in 1987.

In 1989, he became the second physician to receive the American College of Rheumatology Gold Medal. In 1990, he was the first NIH physician to receive the master of the American College of Physicians.

Survivors include his wife, Lucille Macbeth Decker of Bethesda; son David L. of Bethesda; and three daughters, Virginia E. Jahnes of Jefferson, Md., Margaret "Megan" Malaro of Chestertown, Md., and Susan Morrow of Bristol, Va.

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