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Kenneth J. Blair M.D.

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Kenneth J. Blair, M.D. (1954-2010) Kenneth J. Blair died peacefully after a long illness on Sunday, October 31, 2010, in Austin. Dr. Blair was born in Martinsville, Virginia, in 1954, and after growing up in DuPont company towns in Virginia and Delaware, he first came to Texas on an academic scholarship to the University of Dallas. An excellent student and natural mad scientist even in his youth, Ken was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Medical School, and graduated in 1980. He was one of only two members of his medical class to pursue family practice as his specialty, and came back to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin for his residency and internship. Dr. Blair had a distinguished career as a physician in Austin. Eschewing more lucrative specialties, he gravitated quickly toward roles in community medicine, serving as Medical Director of the Peoples Community Clinic. With his wife and colleague Carol Cody he founded Fifth Street Family Practice, and became known as a doctor with a special personal commitment to his calling. He was willing to listen to his patients, interested in them as people, and passionate about using his position to create connections and hope. Early in his career he became aware of the advancing HIV epidemic, and he embraced this challenge with a unique blend of scientific rigor, warm compassion, and ironic humor. He and Carol were instrumental in founding Christopher House in 1993 to provide hospice care for AIDS patients. Dr. Blair became active in AIDS education and advocacy, speaking at professional meetings and testifying before the Texas Legislature about the public health issues that he knew so well. He was invited to speak at too many funerals as well, and he always brought his heart along with his medical credentials. In 1996 Dr. Blair took a position at the David Powell Clinic in Austin, managing burgeoning caseloads which at times included care for fully one third of the HIV cases in Travis County. Away from his medical career Ken had an active interest in astronomy, applied science of all varieties, scuba diving, woodworking and furniture making, and other pursuits that presented themselves. He had a polymorphous curiosity about life which was never sated. Ken was comforted in his final illness by his wife Karen Tarnower, his family, and the Austin community. He is survived by his mother Elizabeth Blair, his wife Karen, daughter Nicole Blair and son Christopher Cody Blair, both of Austin, and brothers Dave and Jerry. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Christopher House, Hospice Austin. A memorial celebration will be held at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, 605 Robert E. Lee Rd, Austin, on Saturday, November 6, at 10:00 a.m.

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Published in Austin American-Statesman on Nov. 3, 2010
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