Dr. Robert B. McDaniel, 52, recovering addict who was a beacon of hope for others

February 06, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Robert Bragg McDaniel, medical director of a Baltimore drug-addiction treatment center and a recovering addict whose struggle served as a beacon of hope to others with similar substance afflictions, died Saturday of a heart attack at his Ashburton home. He was 52.

A third-generation physician dedicated to working with the sick and addicted in some of Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods, Dr. McDaniel -- whose addiction was to prescription drugs -- had been medical director of Glenwood Life Center in Govans since 1999.

Many of those he treated credited him with keeping them in recovery from addictions to heroin, cocaine and alcohol. In the process, he became a role model.

"I know that patients respected that he was upfront about being in recovery himself," said Frank Satterfield, executive director of Glenwood since 1971.

"They'd say, `He's been where I am, and look where he's taken it to.' It was a very positive message, and Rob never wanted to be on a pedestal. He realized that addiction could happen to anyone. No one was immune from it, whether they were rich or poor, white or black, laborer or lawyer, or even a physician. Many of our patients have expressed that he saved their lives."

"He was very proud of his own recovery and that it was an inspiration to others," said his son, Jason G. McDaniel Sr. of Baltimore, who survives with a grandson. Dr. McDaniel's marriage to Adrienne Weatherly ended in divorce.

Born in the city, the son of the late Dr. Robert W. and Juliamae McDaniel, he was raised in Ashburton. He was a 1966 graduate of City College, where he played football and was a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

He received his undergraduate degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1971 and his medical degree from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1975. He completed residencies at area hospitals in internal medicine and anesthesia.

Dr. McDaniel practiced medicine in several health care facilities around the city. In 1983, he became interested in substance abuse. He was the first medical director of Glen Meadows Recovery Center in Glen Arm and held similar posts at Oakview Treatment Center in Ellicott City and Mountain Manor Treatment Center in Baltimore.

In 1988, he established the detoxification program at Bon Secours Hospital. In 1989, he joined the staff of Total Health Care to work in alcohol and drug treatment programs.

When he went to Glenwood for an interview, he was told the pay would be low.

"There was no way we could afford to pay him at a salary level that was anywhere near what a physician would make in any other setting, and he told me he wasn't in it for the money," Mr. Satterfield said.

"But he accepted the offer of a low salary, long hours, no chance for advancement and an opportunity to work with some of society's most difficult discards. Instead of treating these people as discards, however, he embraced the concept that these were people with a treatable medical disease who deserved the best we had to offer. He touched the lives of a massive number of people."

Dr. McDaniel worked out of a closet-size office that he filled with books and jazz compact discs, which he played all day and lent to patients.

"He really had two sides to him," said Lillian Donnard, Glenwood's clinical director. "He was a brilliant physician. He was also a streetwise, laid-back bleeding heart, and the patients loved him."

Ms. Donnard said Dr. McDaniel addressed more than medical problems, making sure, for example, that a patient who couldn't afford groceries got them.

"It's so uncanny that a person could make such a contribution as Rob did in so little time," said Mr. Satterfield, adding that Glenwood's board plans to name a new wing of the clinic for Dr. McDaniel.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.

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