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E. Grey Dimond, founder of UMKC medical school, dies at 94

Updated: 2013-11-05T07:02:30Z

By CINDY HOEDEL

The Kansas City Star

Cardiologist E. Grey Dimond, founder of the School of Medicine at University of Missouri-Kansas City, died Sunday evening at his home at age 94.

Dimond, who also founded the cardiology department at University of Kansas, is remembered for pioneering a new way of teaching medicine. He established a six-year, year-round program that put students in contact with real patients early on, rather than the traditional four-year university education followed by four years of medical school.

“I don’t believe that every young woman and young man should go to medical school right out of high school,” Dimond once said. “But there are a lot of young people — maybe 30 percent — that don’t need to go to a university for four years and root for the basketball team on Friday night and go out drinking on Saturday night … There are kids who are ready to get on with life. And that’s what I shot for.”

Felix Sabates, 83, who founded the Eye Department at the UMKC School of Medicine and is still a professor there, knew Dimond for more than 40 years and said Hospital Hill in its current form — the complex of Truman Medical Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital, UMKC’s schools of medicine and dentistry — would not exist without Dimond.

“Not only was he talented, he was caring and he had vision. He was not a back-slapping kind of guy. He was very quiet and focused,” Sabates said. “He was criticized and had people fighting against him, but he won. More than 3,000 students from all over the world have graduated from the school and are now doctors because of his efforts.”

Dimond’s career highlights extend beyond Kansas City. In 1971, he was one of the first Americans to visit Communist China, beating President Richard Nixon there by six months. Dimond became friends with native Kansas City journalist Edgar Snow, who chronicled the Chinese Revolution and was the first Western journalist to interview Mao Zedong.

Dimond led frequent educational trips to China and wrote about his firsthand experiences of Chinese medicine in medical journals.

The oldest of Dimond’s three daughters, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, a sculptor in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., said her father led a rich life with many interests.

“My father gave me a love of gardening and roses and art and Siamese cats and the finer things in life,” Dimond-Cates said. “He was concerned that when I was an adult I might not know about the world and not see the important places in the world, and that I wouldn't have experiences and meet people from other countries. So he made sure I went to Japan and the South China Sea and all over the world with him.”

In an email, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton wrote: “E. Grey Dimond was an innovator and a leader, as well as a healer. A man with immense gifts of intellect, imagination and insight, he put those gifts to work to benefit his community, his university, his profession and the world at large.”

In 2011, Dimond received major awards from the medical schools on both sides of the state line that he helped shape: the Chancellor’s Medal from UMKC and the Honorary Medical Alumnus Award from University of Kansas Medical Center.

Dimond enjoyed relatively good health up until the end of his life by following his own prescription for longevity: “Stay skinny; don’t smoke.”

Reach Cindy Hoedel at choedel@kcstar.com.

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