Joseph B. Bronushas, 75, physician, medical professor

April 04, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Joseph B. Bronushas, a plain-speaking East Baltimore physician and professor of medicine whose work as a family doctor inspired medical students, died Friday of cancer at Mercy Medical Center. The longtime Middle River resident was 75.

Dr. Bronushas was the son of an East Baltimore physician.

He maintained a general practice from 1955 until 1971, when he became a full-time associate professor of medicine in the University of Maryland Medical School's department of family medicine. He retired in 1981.

A man of average height whose carefully trimmed beard and twinkling blue eyes made him a well-known figure to his patients and medical students, he was known for his hearty laughter and penchant for irreverent jokes.

"He was a gregarious man that you could hear all over the place. He loved having a good time," said his cousin Lynn Lewis of Essex.

Called "Dr. B" or "Dr. Joe" by his patients, he visited homes of the sick or practiced medicine from his rowhouse in the 3000 block of O'Donnell St., where he lived and maintained examining rooms for years.

"He was our mentor in the family practice program," said Dr. Marion C. Kowalewski, an Overlea internist who met Dr. Bronushas while a medical student at the University of Maryland.

"What made Joe different is that he came from a family practice, and he got to know the entire family of those he was treating. You have to know the entire family dynamic, he'd say, and he impressed us with that fact," said Dr. Kowalewski.

"He was down to earth and enjoyed what he did and made you want to be a doctor. He was both a friend as well as a doctor," he said.

Because he lived and practiced in a working-class neighborhood, Dr. Bronushas was intimately acquainted with the economic hardships that sometimes faced his patients.

He would accept a chicken, cake or pie in lieu of payment for medical treatment, said family members.

"He'd walk into a house and lift the lid of a pot in the kitchen and say, `I'd love some of that,' " said Dr. Kowalewski, laughing.

"He was the kind of man who could transcend all socioeconomic barriers," said his daughter, Kathy Abbott of Taylors Island.

Like his father, he also went aboard the Esso tankers that docked in East Baltimore to treat mariners.

After undergoing heart surgery in the early 1970s, Dr. Bronushas decided to give up the rigors of a practice to teach.

Born and raised in East Baltimore, he was a 1942 graduate of Loyola at Blakefield and earned his bachelor's degree from Loyola College in 1946. He graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1950 and completed his residency there in 1952.

He served in the Army Medical Corps from 1952 until he was discharged in 1955.

His professional memberships included the American Academy of Family Physicians, Rush Medical Club and Phi Delta Theta.

He met his wife, the former Carolyn O'Neill Lewis, a registered nurse, when the two worked at the former University Hospital.

"He was treating her for an allergy and gave her too much of an antihistamine. When she woke up, she looked at him, and I guess it was love at first sight," said Ms. Lewis.

The couple married in 1954. Mrs. Bronushas survives her husband.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9 a.m. tomorrow at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church, 1704 Old Eastern Ave., Essex.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Dr. Bronushas is survived by a son, John Bronushas of Back River; and five grandchildren.

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