Knut Ra, 53, epidemiologist, Hopkins Symphony violinist

September 22, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Dr. Knut Ra, a Norwegian-born epidemiologist who played first violin with the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, died of colon cancer Tuesday at his Charles Village home. He was 53.

Educated at the University of Oslo in Norway and the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Dr. Ra was a senior researcher for the past five years with the nonprofit Maryland Medical Research Institute.

"He insisted on paying appropriate attention to patient concerns in the large research projects we did," said Dr. Michael Terrin, vice president of the research institute. "He was always thinking of the people behind the records and the numbers."

Born in Sandefjord, Norway, on Aug. 30, 1943, Dr. Ra earned his medical degree in 1968 from the University of Oslo and joined the Norwegian Health Service, specializing in community medicine.

In 1979, he received a master's degree in public health from Hopkins. After three years in Norway's health directorate, he moved to Maine and was the state's director of disease control for four years.

In 1986, he returned to Hopkins and earned a doctorate in public health in 1990. After completing two fellowships, he joined the Maryland Medical Research Institute, an independent organization that conducts long-term studies on public health issues.

Dr. Ra was involved in several research projects, including studies on preventing kidney failure and reducing cholesterol levels in children through diet. Much of his work involved monitoring patients with heart disease and other cardiovascular ailments.

Dr. Ra played with the Hopkins Symphony, an 80-member volunteer orchestra, for six seasons.

Margot Stambler, the orchestra's general manager, said a Monday night rehearsal at Shriver Hall wouldn't be complete without the sight of Dr. Ra's wife, Mollie Webb Jenckes, and dog coming into the hall to listen to the last piece before walking him home.

"Knut Ra was a person who understood both the communal and personal journeys to be made in music making," she said. "His musical spirit will always remain a part of the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra."

Dr. Ra's wife said he studied with leading violinists as a child. In the past five years, she said, he took up the viola.

"In Norway, he played with the University of Oslo Orchestra and went on a tour to Iceland," she said. "I think he could have been a professional musician, but he chose to put his time into medicine."

Dr. Ra was also an avid cross-country skier.

He formerly was married to Marit Holte, who died in 1978. He married Ms. Jenckes in 1980.

He also is survived by a son, Bjorn Ra, a student at the University of California at Berkeley; three daughters, Anne Deford Shachoy of Ann Arbor, Mich., Cator Webb Shachoy of San Francisco and Amelia Bates Shachoy of New York City; and a brother, Oystein Ra of Kongsberg, Norway.

A memorial gathering will be held at 1: 30 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Great Hall of Levering Hall on the university's Homewood campus. The family suggests donations to the Hopkins Symphony, in care of the university at 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218, or the Department of Radiation and Oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore 21287.

Pub Date: 9/22/96

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