Dean Timmons was born in 1931 in a farmhouse in Jasper County, Indiana. His birthweight is unknown – the only available scale was one for weighing chickens. His interest in a career in medicine arose during his junior year in high school. He required surgery and it was during that hospitalization that he came to greatly respect the skill and personal qualities of the surgeon who provided him with such excellent care. Dr. Timmons received his undergraduate degree A.B. in Anatomy and Physiology with distinction from the University of Indiana in 1952. Dr. Timmons remained at Indiana for his medical education. Any thoughts that he may have entertained of a surgical career were displaced when Timmons served as clinical clerk on Dr. Alexander Ross’ neurology service. Timmons was captivated by Ross’ clinical skills, friendliness, and neurological knowledge. He was particularly struck by Ross’ marvelous desire and capacity to teach and be supportive of students, residents, nurses, and other staff members. He was struck by the fact that Ross made all of those he encountered feel “pretty damned important too.” It is not surprising that these humane attributes resonated with Timmons, for these were traits and capacities that he too would manifest throughout his own long career.
Upon receipt of his medical degree in 1956, Dr. Timmons spent (as was the custom in those days) a yearlong Internship. During that year he received a letter from Dr. Ross inviting him to return to Indiana to be trained as a neurologist. The University of Indiana program in those days sustained a well-deserved reputation of excellence in training individuals in the broad spectrum of clinical neurology In addition to such excellent clinicians as Ross and colleague Bill Lamar, Dr. Timmons training was enriched by the systematic teaching of provided by neuropathologist Orville Bailey, whose 18 years at Harvard/Boston Children’s had made him one of the great pioneers of pediatric neuropathology. Dr. Timmons’ neurology residency (1957-1962), was interrupted in order to fulfill by a three year Berry Plan military service obligation (1959-1961). Dr. Timmons served as a Captain and neurologist at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls Texas. His purview included neurological as well as psychiatric problems but the latter category occupied most of his time. Much of that time was spent with the inpatient Women’s Psychiatric Facility – among the largest such units in the military medical facilities in the United States at that time. Together with Dr. Glen Shoptaugh, Dr. Timmons also started the first Child Neurology Clinic at the airbase.
Dr. Timmons’ fellowship in child neurology (1962-1964) was enriched by the recent arrival of Director, Dr. Less Drew, from the University of Michigan. Drew’s surpassing skills in interacting with children and in obtaining their history and examination, and his great enjoyment of them, greatly impressed Dr. Timmons, whose own practice of child neurology has exemplified similar capacities. It was further enriched by the presence of Dr. William DeMyer who was at that time hard at work on characterization of brain malformations and on the manner in which “the face predicts the brain.” Timmons’ career- long interest in the learning and behavioral problems of children was fueled by the distinguished neuropsychologist Ralph Reitan. Timmons learned much but in would outgrow conceptions of “minimal brain dysfunction” and “neurologic soft signs’ as his own considerable and practical experience-based sophistication made him an expert in children’s problems with development, learning and behavior.
Upon completion of training, Dr. Timmons moved to Akron, hanging out his shingle as Ohio’s second child neurologist. At Akron Children’s Hospital he was to remain Chief of Child Neurology from 1964 until 2000.
In 1969 Dr. Timmons become a Diplomat in Child Neurology, receiving certificate #101. He would soon become a board examiner himself. He has subsequently served as Board Examiner more than 80 times. He has proven a mentor and steadying force for generations of individuals who have nervously inaugurated their careers as board examiners. Dr. Timmons quickly became a very busy practitioner as his reputation in Northeast Ohio rapidly grew. As first Director of Child Neurology at Akron Children’s’ Hospital he gradually expanded the service, recruiting “T.K.” Kulasekaran and epileptologist Margaret McBride to join him. Together with metabolic pathologist Joe Potter, neuropathologist Dimitri Agamanolis, and other committed physicians, therapists, educators, and counselors, Akron Children’s became an important center for diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of acute and chronic neurological diseases of children.
Dr. Timmons oversaw the establishment of comprehensive neurodevelopment program, of a comprehensive spasticity clinic and of a multidisciplinary conference to plan and execute the best possible care and rehabilitation for head injured individuals. These initiatives have, over time, been remarkably well supported by the very enlightened administration of Akron Children’s’ a hospital that has manifested enviably smooth function of all other aspects of neurologic care. Always deeply interested in the plight of disabled individuals, Dr. Timmons served as Medical Director of United Cerebral Palsy of Ohio. According to Dr. Timmons, “anyone can take care of an infection, but to take care of chronic illness requires a physician.” Dr. Timmons also served as Consultant to the State Director of Clinics established for handicapped individuals. In this capacity he was responsible for the review of facilities and their therapeutic programs. He served as Statewide Consultant on Education for the Ohio State Medical Society.
Dr. Timmons was among the small group of individuals who met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1973 to attempt to realize Ken Swaiman’s vision of a national organization of child neurologists. Many senior child neurologists had expressed doubts as to the need for a Child Neurology Society and concern was expressed as to how they might be attracted. A practical “man of action,” Dean Timmons convinced wealthy Akron businessman John B. Hower to fund a named lectureship first awarded to Douglas Buchanan and thereafter to a long distinguished stream of senior neurologists who came to devote their efforts to the young society. Dr. Timmons’ further service to the Society has included serving as Chair of the Awards, Private Practice, and Community Care Committees. He has been an active participant in the AAN Practice Committee and was Secretary-Treasurer of the Child Neurology Section of the AAN.
Dr. Timmons has published eleven papers. Six concern heritable metabolic diseases. One considers patient- physician communication problems, one learning disorders, one the objective measurement of severity of hyperactivity and one the treatment of hyperactivity. Dr. Timmons lectured on neurological diseases at the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine for 15 years. During 45 years at Akron Children’s’ Hospital he has tirelessly educated residents. He has continued to demonstrate not only how to diagnose and treat, but how to be a physician. He has exemplified as
Alex Ross and others did for him, that “to become a physician is to become something more than a diagnostician or a pill passer.” His medical students and residents have learned from him the art of listening, of skillfulness in patient interactions and examination, and how to work hard and devotedly while at the same time balancing the demands of life.
Dr. Timmons’ first marriage resulted in the birth of four daughters. The eldest is a psychologist, the next oldest has been an actress in movies and in Broadway plays, the next oldest received her Doctorate in trans-cultural adult education and is head of education for an engineering firm. The youngest is currently a graduate student in social work. Dr. Timmons second wife, Beverly has expertise in early childhood education and holds the rank of Professor in Early Childhood Education at Kent State University. Recently the couple has collaborated in development of a program that aims to prepare teachers to recognize and safely manage seizures in the classroom. It also aims to improve communication between the parents, teachers, and physicians of children with epilepsy. Thus they hope to demystify the disorder, eliminating the unhelpful fright that the sight or report of a seizure in the classroom might provoke in teachers or in classmates and their parents.
The Timmons share a love of travel, bicycling, and have recently taken up fly-fishing. Dean is hoping to be able to ride his bicycle 100 miles on his upcoming 80th birthday.