Charles D. Flagle
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School professor emeritus recalled as a gifted researcher, storyteller and mentor
Charles D. Flagle, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professor emeritus, died of pneumonia Sunday at Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson. The former Ruxton resident was 97. “Dr. Flagle was among the founders of the field of health services research,” said Karen Kruse Thomas, historian of the Bloomberg School. “He pioneered applying mathematical and managerial approaches to streamline large-scale health systems, including computerization and progressive patient care.
“His reforms at Johns Hopkins Hospital to group patients by their need for intensive, medium or semi-independent levels of care were adopted by hospitals to increase their admissions and improve the quality of care,” she said. “The American health system owes him a great debt of thanks.”
Born in Scottdale, Pa., and raised in Baltimore’s Waverly community on Venable Avenue, he was the son of Charles D. Flagle, who sold gymnasium seating, and Marie Denhard.
He was a1936 graduate of City College.
As a young man he played the trombone in a dance band. He and friends formed a ship’s orchestra and sailed to Rotterdam in the summer of 1939. They returned to Baltimore on the same vessel when World War II broke out in Europe.
In 1940, he became a design and development engineer for the Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Philadelphia. He worked on jet engine controls for the Army after earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Johns Hopkins University.
He later earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in engineering, also from Johns Hopkins.
In 1950, he began working as a research associate at the Institute for Cooperative Research, a unit that worked at Johns Hopkins in conjunction with the Army.
He joined the School of Engineering faculty in 1954 and completed his doctorate of engineering in 1955. He was named a professor in 1962.
The Bloomberg School of Public Health recruited Dr. Flagle in 1963 to set up a research section in its Department of Public Health Administration. Colleagues said he taught the school’s first health services research courses and trained students in the tools of health planning and research.
Dr. Flagle served as a special assistant to the U.S. surgeon general for applied health technology from 1967 to 1968. He worked to implement electronic medical records sys- tems.
In 1978, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ellen J. MacKenzie, a Johns Hopkins public health professor and chair of the department of health policy and management, called Dr. Fagle a “pioneer in the field of health services.”
“What I will remember most about him was his incredible wit and good humor,” she said. “He was a great storyteller and very much a Renaissance man. He also cared deeply for the students and was, himself, a great teacher and mentor. He will be sorely missed by many.”
“My father was known for bringing the field of operations research and the use of technology to the forefront of public health,” said his son, Douglas A. Flagle of Towson. “His focus was the role that computers, telecommunications and information sciences play in health services delivery.”
His son also said Dr. Flagle helped develop the field of medical systems research: “Whenhebegan, it was a field that didn’t exist.”
During his career, Dr. Flagle’s work advanced the application of research in areas such as disease screening, diagnosis and therapy, as well as hospital resources allocation.
In 1984 he was named a professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins.
The Johns Hopkins Alumni Association awarded Dr. Flagle its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2000.
Before his retirement, he was a visiting scholar at the National Library of Medicine, where he created a classification system for health services research.
“My father was a busy guy. He would often come home late, and he traveled the globe as a part of the World Health Organization,” said his son.
Dr. Flagle painted family portraits. A love of music remained with him throughout his life. He was a patron of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Opera.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where he sang in the choir.
In addition to his son, survivors include his daughter, Judith E. Anderson of Sequim, Wash.; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth D. Stephens of Scarsdale, N.Y.; nine grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters. Another son, C. Lawrence Flagle, died in 2015.
Dr. Fagle’s wife of 41 years, Janet Waters Dryden, died in 2006. Lois Hagaman, his wife of 16 years, died in 1963. Charles Flagle was among the founders in health services research.