Hiram Maxwell Sturm, a resident of Atlanta for 65 years, died in his Atlanta home Saturday night, surrounded by his four children and his loving caregiver from Me Times Two. He was 95.
An internationally recognized pioneer in the field of dermatology, a national leader and founder of professional societies that will endure as part of his legacy, a valued teacher and mentor to generations of young doctors, caregiver to thousands and shining light of warm graciousness to everyone, Hiram wanted to be known as a Tennessee country boy who made good.
He will be remembered as a folksy guy, nourished by the energy he generated by engaging and knowing the person in front of him. He never stopped being the cute kid in the small town, whether on the national stage as a prominent dermatologist, on the tennis court with partners decades younger than he, enjoying social events with his long-time family of Atlanta friends or focusing his all on the patient he was with. Regardless of the events of his long workdays, the unwavering priority meeting of the day remained the family dinner.
Hiram was born in Corbin, Ky. in 1926, and raised in the Appalachian hill towns of Middlesboro, Ky. and Jellico, Tenn. He grew up in the cradle of an extended family with three brothers and three first cousins, whose houses and general stores made one big home. The values of 1930s small town America, the experience of his family’s economic struggles as storekeepers navigating the Depression and floods and the challenges of maintaining heritage and identity as a Jewish family in a foreign land, established family and persistence as the bedrock of his generation’s future successes and became the unwavering identity and values Hiram embraced throughout life.
Hiram attended college and medical school at Vanderbilt and the University of Tennessee, receiving his bachelors and medical degrees in five years. He launched his medical career at age 21 as a country doctor, serving families in the hardscrabble coal mining communities of Kentucky and Tennessee. A revolver Hiram obtained from a family engagement with the Hatfield-McCoy clans provides a representative colorful memento of the period.
In 1950, Hiram began his internship at Cincinnati Jewish Hospital, which was interrupted in 1951 by three years of stateside service in the Navy as a flight surgeon at Camp LeJeune, N.C., where he delivered over 1,000 babies. He also met Ruth Soltzer when Hiram and his brother, Mel, two country boys from the hills of Tennessee, set out for Grossingers resort in the Catskills for potential Jewish brides.
After a weekend of shows and dinners, Hiram and Ruth pursued their poolside attraction with a rapid courtship via telephone and letters between Cincinnati and New York. Married in 1951 with Hiram in Navy uniform and Ruth in a dress designed by her mother, a 64-year-partnership was launched. After naval service in Pensacola, Fla. and Cherry Point, N.C., the young couple moved to New York with their newborn Lois, where Hiram did his dermatology residency at NYU’s Skin and Cancer Clinic under the tutelage of renowned dermatologists Marion Sulzberger and Norman Orentreich, with whom he developed the first successful hair transplant surgery.
After a year in private practice in New York City, having been joined by their second child Richard, Ruth undertook a comprehensive assessment of the 10 most promising towns in America, inquiring with letters to chambers of commerce about medical school teaching opportunities, demographics, conditions for raising a family and professional opportunities. The research pointed the young couple to visit and ultimately choose Atlanta as their home, where the family was soon completed with the arrival of Russell and Nancy.
Drawn by the strength of the Emory University School of Medicine, and the welcoming arms and clear promise of the city, Hiram became the 11th dermatologist in Atlanta in 1957. His 46 years of private practice, which Ruth helped run, were punctuated by his donated weekly service — one day a week — leading rounds with students and residents at Grady Hospital as Clinical Professor of Dermatology with Emory University Medical School.
The legacy of his life’s work includes thousands of patients, whose letters of appreciation in the past week attest to his care, the multiple local, regional and national professional education and learning societies he co-founded, as well as the extended family of mentees and generations of effective physicians who continue to carry forward Hiram’s surgical methods and caregiving approach.
Hiram is survived by his four children: Lois Sturm (Alexander Titov), Richard Sturm (Christine Sturm) and sons Benjamin, Mac (Harlow) and Jackson (Harlow), Russell Sturm (Michele McNally and sons Justin and Eli and daughter Tevah) and Nancy Sturm (Michelle Miller). Hiram’s brother, Howard (100), and cousins Sam and Eve remain from the early family. The extended family of cousins join in mourning the loss of Hiram.
A funeral service was held at 1:30 pm on Jan. 25 at Ahavath Achim Synagogue (600 Peachtree Battle Ave. NW, Atlanta). A brief graveside service followed at Crestlawn Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a gift in Hiram’s memory to Weinstein Hospice of Jewish Home Life. Dressler’s Funeral Home, 770-451-4999.
- Dressler's Jewish Funeral Care
- Hiram Maxwell Sturm
- Me Times Two
- small town life
- Great Depression
- Vanderbilt University
- University of Tennessee
- Cincinnati Jewish Hospital
- U.S. Navy
- Camp LeJeune
- Grossingers Resort
- NYU Skin and Cancer Clinic
- hair transplant surgery
- Emory University School of Medicine
- Grady Hospital
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- Weinstein Hospice of Jewish Home Life
- Crestlawn Cemetery