E. Grey Dimond Memorial Tribute
Dr. E. Grey Dimond, (1918-2013)
Dr. E. Grey Dimond, founder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Medicine passed away November 3, 2013. His life was devoted to the practice of medicine, to medical education and, for the latter half of his life, to promoting friendship between his country and China.
He was a very early president, 1961-1962, of the American College of Cardiology and, at his death, the oldest surviving president.
During his military service in Japan, Dimond was sent to Shanghai to examine Americans who had been imprisoned there by the Japanese. From that experience, he made himself knowledgeable about China. In 1971, his friend, journalist Edgar Snow, arranged for Dimond and his teacher, Paul Dudley White, to visit China. The two men were the first American physicians in China in twenty-two years. Dimond made the re-establishment of friendly relations between the two countries a prime duty. In his life, he made forty trips to Asia, hosted numerous American groups on visits to China, brought many students from China to UMKC, and, capping all this, he and his wife adopted a Chinese daughter in 1980.
The prominent international correspondent for the New York Times, Harrison Salisbury, wrote in 1988, ‘Grey Dimond’s energy, imagination and dedication to public and professional welfare are unique in my experience. No one whom I know has done as much single-handed for the betterment of Chinese-American relations and that is only one of his many preoccupations.’
Dr. Dimond’s father was from a prominent Mississippi family. The couple was visiting and Christmas shopping in St. Louis, his mother’s home city, when she went into labor. Grey was born on his mother’s birthday, December 8, 1918, and the family returned to Terre Haute, Indiana five days after his birth. During testimony in Jefferson City, Missouri, attempting to get funding for the new medical school, one of the legislators challenged Dimond as to why a Mississippi native was asking for Missouri money. The reply: “I was born in St. Louis and my mother’s family came to Missouri in 1815, before it became a State. When did your family come?” The legislator choked, then recovered with a laugh, and said, ‘You win! My father came here from Italy!’ Dimond did not volunteer that he had lived in St. Louis only the first five days of his life.
As a youth, Dimond enjoyed sports, lettered in high school in football and track and, at Purdue, competed in football and boxing. His medical degree in 1944 was from Indiana University. His post-graduate training was at Indiana Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital.
He was in the Army medical corps and was Chief of Cardiology for the 42nd and 49th General Hospital, Tokyo. For ten years he was head of the heart department and, later, of the Department of Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center. He became founder and head of the Institute for CardioPulmonary Diseases at the Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, California, then was consultant in medical education to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington before returning to Kansas City to found the UMKC School of Medicine.
He and his wife, Mary Clark Dimond, built a home on Hospital Hill in Kansas City, later expanding Diastole into a scholars’ center for UMKC and leaving it endowed to a private foundation in order to enhance the efforts of the University.
Dimond wrote sixteen books, including detailed summaries of his ancestors: the Dimonds, the Whiteheads, the Morrisons, the Schmidts. His daughters, Sherri Grey Byrer, Lark Grey Dimond, Lea Grey Dimond, and Joan Tung Wu, MD, three grandchildren, eight great-grand- children, and six great-great- grandchildren survive him.
A memorial is to be held in Kansas City, on the campus of UMKC, on December 8 in celebration of the shared birthdays of Dr. Dimond and his mother. His ashes will be placed at the family cemetery in Winona, Mississippi.
At the family’s request, memorial contributions may be made to the E. Grey Dimond Memorial Fund c/o Diastole,
2501 Holmes Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64108.
Published in Kansas City Star on Nov. 10, 2013
E. Grey Dimond Dies at 94
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.”
Copyright 2013 The Kansas City Star
From the Kansas City Star op-ed page, November 7, 2013:
E. Grey Dimond
I write this letter from the hills of rural Ireland, as far away from Hospital Hill as one could imagine. But my mind and heart are there, fumbling to absorb the news that Dr. E. Grey Dimond, founder of UMKC Medical School, has passed away (11-5, A4, “Med school’s founder dies”).
Only days ago, we exchanged e-mails concerning future collaboration with his wonderful assistant, Nancy Hill, on his biography. In March, we sat talking, laughing, around a table at his home.
I met this fine man in the mid-1980s as medical writer for The Kansas City Times, spending many stimulating hours in the cozy, upstairs sitting room of the Diastole Scholars’ Center interviewing him, drinking greedily from his font of worldly wisdom.
E. Grey’s achievements are multifaceted and will be written about and spoken of widely, not just around Kansas City, but in far-flung towns and cities, within the U.S. and abroad.
This artist-author-doctor-professor-administrator was great among men and will be remembered. All the people who knew him will rethink their lives. And wonder what they’ve done with what they’ve had. And probably regret.
And maybe do so much more with what they have left.