Former Boston University School of Medicine professor Dr. Lawrence Norton, who lectured for years in the dermatology department on nail disorders, died last month in Newton-Wellesley Hospital after suffering a heart attack while golfing. He was 78.
Norton began his career as a general practitioner in the early 1960s, but decided to go back to school at BU and specialize in dermatology. He was tired of having to refer interesting cases to other doctors, his wife Mary Norton said.
‘He wanted to know more about one thing than anyone else in the world,’ she said.
Norton, who graduated from New York Medical College in 1956, served for two years as a captain at Hanscom Air Force Base near Lexington, Mass. During that time, he attended many Harvard University and BU medical conferences, particularly ones concerning dermatology and nail diseases, which eventually spurred his decision to specialize in dermatology when he went back to school in 1966. He strove to learn everything he could about nail disease, she said.
‘By then he was 36 to 37 years old,’ she said. ‘Most heads of departments didn’t take old residents, but BU had enough sense to accept him. It was a unique opportunity.’
In 1971, the family moved from New Jersey, where Norton was born and raised, to Dedham. Norton then opened a dermatology practice in Wellesley Hills and also served on the staff of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, while he continued his teaching at BU community and eventually becoming an assistant clinical professor.
‘Dr. Norton was one of our department’s most loyal and most highly regarded clinical affiliate faculty members,’ BUSM dermatology department Chairwoman Dr. Barbara Gilchrest said. ‘Students and residents, as well as his colleagues, benefited from his in depth knowledge as a consummate clinician.’
A father of three children, Norton always made time to attend their sporting events and stay involved in their lives, his wife said. His decision to specialize in dermatology was in part influenced by the lack of family time he had as a general practitioner, she said.
Norton, who received his undergraduate education at Yale University, also instilled the value of a good education in his children, his wife said.
‘He really believed in education,’ she said. ‘Forget everything else, but give your kids a good education.’
In what little free time he had, Norton golfed, gardened and was very involved in the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church community in Dedham, his wife said. He was particularly interested in recruiting and welcoming young people to the church.
‘He was at the church every Sunday when he wasn’t working,’ she said. ‘He was so friendly, and people loved him.’
In addition to his wife, Norton leaves his daughter, Anne Norton Groves; two sons, Lawrence and Samuel; and six grandchildren.