Dearth, a former captain of the Duke University football team, arrived in Birmingham in 1979 after completing his residency and fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In 1984 he became vice chairman of the pediatrics department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The following year he became medical director of Children's Hospital. Just two years later, in 1987, he was named the hospital's CEO. He held that position for 20 years and retired at the end of 2007. Mike Warren succeeded him on January 1, 2008.
In 1992, Dearth helped found Voices for Alabama's Children, a nonprofit children's advocacy and research group. In honor of his retirement, the group awarded Dearth their first Champion for Children Award in January 2007.
Dearth served on the boards of National Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions, the Children's Miracle Network, and the Child Health Corporation of America. For his work at Children's Hospital, he was inducted into the Alabama Health Care Hall of Fame in 2008. After retirement he and his wife, Joanne, moved to the North Carolina coast.
Dearth died of an apparent heart attack while sailing on his boat with family and friends in April 2009.
In 2012, one of the buildings at Children's Hospital was named in his honor.
- Velasco, Anna (January 23, 2007) "CEO who oversaw growth set to retire." The Birmingham News
- Velasco, Anna (November 4, 2007) "Children's Hospital CEO prepares to turn over reins after 20 years." The Birmingham News
- DeButts, Jimmy (January 3, 2008) "Former Children's CEO elected to Health Care Hall of Fame." Birmingham Business Journal
- Staff (March 29, 2012) "Children's of Alabama names patient tower for Dearth." Birmingham Business Journal