Dr. J. Alan Baldanza, 58, Balto. County internist

March 26, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. J. Alan Baldanza, a well-known Baltimore County internist and former medical educator, died of a heart attack Saturday while playing tennis at the Springdale neighborhood tennis courts in Cockeysville. He was 58.

For the past 27 years, Dr. Baldanza, who lived in Cockeysville, had practiced medicine in a 100-year-old York Road shingled, tan-colored house he had purchased and converted into a medical office.

Born in Passaic, N.J., and raised in Clifton, N.J., Dr. Baldanza was the son of a milkman and grandson of immigrants from Sicily.

After graduating from Clifton High School in 1962, he earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1966 from the University of Richmond.

He was a 1971 graduate of Albany Medical College in New York, where he also completed his internship. He spent a year working at a U.S. Public Health Service clinic in Oklahoma that treated Native Americans.

After moving to Baltimore, he completed a residency in internal medicine in 1973 at the U.S. Public Health Hospital in Wyman Park, now the Wyman Park Medical Center. He also completed a two-year fellowship in nephrology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"It was always his dream to be in medicine, and it was still his dream until the day he died," said his high school sweetheart and wife of 36 years, the former Joanne Hanfield.

Dr. Baldanza was something of an anomaly, a throwback to a time before the era of managed care transformed medicine. He did not accept health insurance and dealt with his patients' ability to pay on an individual basis.

"He was very disheartened at what was happening in medicine today," his wife said.

While his office may have looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting - the recent addition of a fax machine was a concession to modern technology - Dr. Baldanza remained at the forefront of his profession.

"His office had the charm of an old house, which it had once been, and he even sat at an old roll-top desk. He still made house calls like an old-fashioned doctor, which is what he always wanted to be," Mrs. Baldanza said.

Dr. James C. Ricely, a cardiologist and friend of many years, recalled Dr. Baldanza's thoughtful and caring manner when dealing with patients, many of whom became close friends.

"He had a wonderful, old-fashioned personal approach to things and was a very happy and engaging individual," Dr. Ricely said.

"His patients both loved and trusted him. He was interested in people and their stories and enjoyed talking to them. It was one of his many strengths as a physician."

Spencer Vavas was a neighbor and patient of Dr. Baldanza for nearly 30 years.

"He really can be summed up as simply a man who cared," Mr. Vavas said. "He allowed nothing and no one to interfere in the patient-physician relationship. He also refused to be influenced by institutions and preferred dealing directly with his patients."

Janet P. Schaefer and her husband, who live in Hampstead, have also been patients for many years. She also worked in Dr. Baldanza's office from 1976 until 1981.

"He was a dear, sweet man. The whole community is going to really miss him," Mrs. Schaefer said.

In addition to maintaining his practice, Dr. Baldanza had taught physical diagnosis at the Johns Hopkins medical school for many years.

In his private time, he devoured books on history, music, art and biography. He enjoyed travel and was studying Italian, hoping to be able to speak the language when he visited the land of his ancestors.

About a decade ago, Dr. Baldanza started a summer ice cream social in the back yard of his home that featured homemade hand-churned ice cream.

Dr. Baldanza was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Baldanza is survived by a son, Dr. J. Todd Baldanza of Canton; a daughter, Jill Buss of North Bethesda; a sister, Brenda Jezierski of Wayne, N.J.; a granddaughter; and three nieces.

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