By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
1:13 PM PDT, May 7, 2013
Dr. Howard H. Patt, a former Baltimore surgeon and longtime Mount Washington resident, died April 25 at Sunrise of Santa Monica, a senior living community in California, of complications from a fall. He was 95.
"Howard was always a very calm, relaxed and a conscientious surgeon," said Dr. Morton "Morty" Ellin, a retired Baltimore internist, and a friend and colleague of nearly 60 years. "He really felt honored to be a physician and appreciated being one. It just wasn't about making money," he said.
"He was careful, scholarly, kind and deliberate," said Dr. Irwin R. "Sonny" Berman, a cousin and a retired surgeon who lives in Sea Island, Ga. "He was an unusual bird in the flock because he didn't let his ego get the best of him."
The son of immigrants who left Russia to escape the pogroms, Howard Henry Patt was born in Philadelphia and raised in Phoenix, Ariz., and Los Angeles, where he graduated in 1934 from Fairfax High School.
He earned a bachelor's degree in 1938 and a medical degree in 1942 from the University of California.
He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and was sent to the Aleutian Islands, where he served with the Medical Corps. He was later trained as a paratrooper and served as a paratrooper medic in France. He was discharged at war's end with the rank of major.
"He had applied for a surgical residency at Johns Hopkins after the war and was told the school had reached its Jewish quota for that year," said a son, Robert Patt-Corner of Cabin John in Montgomery County.
Dr. Patt went across the street to the old Sinai Hospital at the corner of Broadway and Monument streets and completed the residency.
He established a private surgical practice with Dr. Edgar Berman, another cousin, and later had offices on Mount Vernon Place, at Westview Shopping Center and on Cold Spring Lane.
"I originally met Howard in 1954, when I took an internship at Sinai Hospital and he was on the surgical staff, and we clicked right away," said Dr. Ellin.
The two physicians later shared an office in Randallstown beginning in 1960, and continued until Dr. Patt retired in the early 1980s.
After purchasing a nursing home at Old Court Road and Liberty Heights Avenue, Dr. Patt and Dr. Ellin, among several others, established Liberty Court Hospital, which was a rehabilitation facility. In 1963, the hospital was reorganized as Baltimore County Hospital.
"It later became Baltimore County General Hospital and today is Northwest Hospital," said Dr. Ellin.
Dr. Patt was chief of surgery at the hospital and later held an additional position as chief of staff. He also became the second physician at the hospital to be given a permanent seat on its board of trustees, said Dr. Ellin.
"His input was always appreciated and honored. He was an excellent surgeon as far as technique was concerned, and his knowledge of medicine was excellent," he said.
"When you're chief of the department, you have to be respected. Even though Howard was a very quiet guy, he was authoritative," said Dr. Ellin. "He'd review doctors, and if he found complaints on a chart, he had no qualms about suspending them. He was not a pussycat," he said. "When he spoke, it was with authority, and the doctors listened."
"Howard was not the imperious impression of a surgeon that one got in those days," said Dr. Berman. "He did not have an aggressive personality and cared a lot about the other person."
Dr. Ellin said his friend was "highly respected" by both staff and patients.
"I'd refer patients to Howard, and sometimes he'd say that they didn't need surgery. We worked together as a team; we were not competitive," he said. "We were not trying to prove one another wrong."
"His personal motto, which he claimed made him a better man and a better doctor, was, 'Never be the first … and never the last,'" his son said.
Dr. Patt was an avid gardener, bridge player, voracious reader of fiction and mysteries, and a brilliant chess player.
"He also was an amateur honky-tonk piano player and was especially fond of the music of Fats Waller," his son said.
His wife of 54 years, the former Shirley Berman, died in 2001.
"Dad was a hell of a good surgeon and spent most of his life trying to help people," said another son, Dr. Stephan Patt of Topanga, Calif. "To his credit, though I didn't end up following him into general surgery, I never heard a word of disapproval for my choice of family medicine, and most of my surgical skills came straight from the master."
Dr. Patt, who moved to Houston shortly after his wife's death, was a former member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. He had settled in Santa Monica a month and a half ago, his son said.
Plans for a memorial service to be held in Baltimore were incomplete.
In addition to his two sons, Dr. Patt is survived by five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. Another son, Dr. Richard Patt, died this year.
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