Dr. Robert M. Barnett, 66, telescopics pioneer, gynecology specialist in treating older women

November 29, 1997|By Karen Masterson | Karen Masterson,SUN STAFF

Dr. Robert M. Barnett, an expert in gynecology for older women who was known for his pioneering work in developing telescopic techniques, died of a heart attack Tuesday at his home in Timonium. He was 66.

The former head of obstetrics and gynecology at Harbor Hospital Center in South Baltimore treated more than 5,000 patients during his 29-year career at the hospital. His work in telescopics is credited with reducing the need for abdominal surgery.

Several patients remember him as a great friend.

"He was the most wonderful, caring, compassionate doctor that you ever wanted to have," said Beryl Williams, a patient of Dr. Barnett's for 25 years. "When you left the hospital [after surgery], he'd call you. He was your friend, and he was your doctor."

A Baltimore native, Dr. Barnett graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington in 1947. He earned degrees from the College of Charleston in South Carolina and the University of Maryland medical school.

"His patients were uniformly devoted and grateful because he never rushed anybody," said his son, Dr. Michael Barnett of Finksburg, a Westminster doctor who once shared a practice with his father. "I went into medicine because I wanted to help people in the same way he did."

Dr. Barnett said he has inherited more than 200 patients since his father's retirement in July. He said that large professional inheritance demonstrates the loyalty of his father's patients.

In 1956, while an Air Force physician in Greece, Robert Barnett met Efie Hadjiapostolou, whom he married. The couple returned to Baltimore in the late 1950s. Dr. Barnett soon began practicing medicine at South Baltimore General Hospital, which later became Harbor Hospital Center.

He became head of obstetrics and gynecology in 1968 and took over the hospital's now-defunct residency program for obstetrics and gynecology.

"In other institutions, the head of the department has a lot of help. But in our institution, single-handedly he was running the whole show, including the residents," said Dr. Ghevont Wartanian, a colleague. "He reached everybody, and he helped everybody.

"When my patients waited 15 minutes, they complained. His patients could wait two hours, and they never complained. They looked forward to seeing him," he said.

Joanie Bennett-Rodriguez, who was Dr. Barnett's secretary for nearly 10 years, said the doctor always gave his elderly patients special consideration. "He was just in here Friday to set up two days a week to keep seeing his longtime older patients," she said.

Dr. Barnett focused his research on methods for "repairing the anatomy of older women," including the uterus and bladder, said colleague Dr. Pedro Arrabal.

Services will be held today at 9 a.m. at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, Maryland Avenue at Preston Street.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Barnett is survived by another son, George Barnett of Perry Hall; a sister, Carol Miller of Richland, Ga.; and two grandsons.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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