Charles J. McDonald, MD, died January 10. The founding chair of Brown’s Department of Dermatology and professor emeritus of medical science, he was a pioneer in translational research who lectured throughout the world on the use of cancer drugs in non-cancerous systemic illnesses and skin diseases.
Born in Tampa, Dr. McDonald earned his bachelor’s in chemistry at North Carolina A&T University at age 19, followed by a master’s in zoology at the University of Michigan. After serving as a flight officer and intelligence officer in the US Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, achieving the rank of major, he graduated first in his class from Howard University Medical School with membership in Alpha Omega Alpha. He completed residencies in internal medicine and dermatology and a fellowship in clinical pharmacology and medical oncology at Yale, where he then joined the faculty. In 1968, he moved to Providence to join the faculty of the fledgling Brown University Medical School. As founding chair of the Department of Dermatology, he trained hundreds of medical students and residents.
Dr. McDonald’s research and experience on the development of safe and effective treatments for skin cancer and systemic autoimmune diseases have been published in some 200 scientific articles, book chapters, and his own textbook. Active in the affairs of the American Cancer Society for three decades, he became its national president in 1998, the only dermatologist ever to have held that post. During his tenure he led new efforts to improve diversity within the organization, coalesced national program efforts in childhood cancer, and spearheaded new program initiatives in prostate cancer in African American men.
Dr. McDonald was a member of the FDA Advisory Panel for Dermatology; a member of the first National Advisory Board for the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science. He also served as president of the American Dermatological Association, an officer of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Residency Review Committee for Dermatology, and a board member of a number of related organizations in dermatology and medicine. His numerous local and regional leadership positions included a decade of service as a trustee of Lifespan.
Inducted into the Rhode Island Hall of Fame in 2013, Dr. McDonald received awards for community service from the NAACP, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, the Ministerial Alliance, the John Hope Settlement House, and the Urban League. For several years he proudly served as a trustee of Bryant University. In 2012, the Rhode Island Medical Society gave him the Charles L. Hill Award for “leaving a magnificent legacy of caring and accomplishment.”
Dr. McDonald is survived by his wife of 39 years, Maureen; four children; his sister; and many grandchildren, greatgrandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Donations in his memory may be made to the Providence Public Library, 150 Empire St., Providence, RI 02903; the Charles and Maureen McDonald Endowed Scholarship Fund, Howard University, P.O. Box 417853, Boston, MA 02241-7853; or St. Mary’s Church, 330 Wood St., Bristol, RI 02809.