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VUMC mourns loss of former Dermatology leader King

Feb. 10, 2022, 9:46 AM


by Paul Govern

Lloyd E. King Jr., MD, PhD

Longtime faculty member Lloyd E. King Jr., MD, PhD, who joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1977 as chief of the Division of Dermatology, died Feb. 8 at Vanderbilt University Hospital after a brief illness. He was 82.

Dr. King led a distinguished career as a scientist, clinician and faculty leader. In 2002, he left his formal leadership post in Dermatology, staying on at VUMC to pursue his research on mouse models of human skin diseases.

“It’s hard to overstate Lloyd’s legacy for dermatology here at VUMC,” said Meg Chren, MD, professor and chair of Dermatology. “He was an accomplished scientist, clinician and teacher who set the highest standards for the faculty he recruited to join him. He assembled international collaborative teams in his research, and his loyal patients constantly remind us of his devotion to them. Finally, he was a consummate academic mentor whose quiet but powerful advice to countless faculty and trainees nurtured many wonderful careers. Lloyd laid the foundation for our new Department of Dermatology here at Vanderbilt, and we are grateful for his devotion.”

Dr. King’s scientific work ranged from helping to determine the function of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and its receptor, to improving the treatment of brown recluse spider bites.

“Like so many of my colleagues in dermatology, Dr. King inspired me to enter a career in dermatology, and he became the mentor who had the biggest impact on my career,” said John Zic, MD, MMHC, professor of Dermatology and vice chair for clinical affairs. “As a rising fourth-year medical student, I still recall learning so much from him in clinic, like calling benign seborrheic keratoses ‘weeds in the garden of life.’ These ‘Kingisms’ have put smiles on the faces of thousands of patients and colleagues. Dr. King also introduced me to this rare skin cancer called mycosis fungoides, and this machine at the VA that ‘suntans the blood,’ called photopheresis, both of which became the foundation of my academic career. He will be dearly missed, but never erased from our memory.”

Another mentee, Jami Miller, MD, associate professor of Dermatology, said, “Lloyd King was the consummate clinician, teacher and scientist. Lloyd loved his mice and his hair research. He was such an amazing diagnostician, and it was a true honor to learn from him. His smile, whistle and ‘Kingisms’ will be sorely missed.”

A native of Mayfield, Kentucky, Dr. King earned his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt, served in the U.S. Navy following graduation, then completed MD and PhD degrees at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. After completing training in dermatology and biochemistry, he taught for five years at UT before joining the Vanderbilt faculty. In the late 1970s, he collaborated with Stanley Cohen, PhD, and Graham Carpenter, PhD, on work that characterized the EGF receptor. (In 1986, Cohen was awarded a Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery of EGF and his subsequent work at Vanderbilt.)

At a 2002 VUMC symposium honoring Dr. King’s scientific contributions, Steven Gabbe, MD, then dean of the School of Medicine, said of him, “Every great medical school must have individuals like Lloyd King … who, because of their commitment to the institution over many years, really provide the culture, provide its values, provide what people know it to be.”

Dr. King is survived by his wife of 53 years, Wanda Waller King, three children, Kevin King, Matthew King (Katie), and Courtney King-Merrill (Billy), and two grandchildren.

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