Umberto VillaSanta

[ Age 80 ] Doctor headed the University of Maryland Medical School's division of gynecologic oncology for 25 years.

After World War II, he was awarded medals for his work in the Italian resistance movement.

November 12, 2007|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun reporter

Dr. Umberto VillaSanta, an expert in gynecology and related fields, died of cancer Thursday at his Norwood Heights home. He was 80.

From 1962 until his retirement in 1987, he was the director of the division of gynecologic oncology at the University of Maryland Medical School.

In addition to treating patients and teaching at the school and hospital, he conducted research. He was the author of more than 60 papers published in medical journals. His fields included long-term studies of varying treatment methods for cervical cancer and the value of different diagnostic techniques for cervical malignancies.

He also participated in physician training in North and South America, Europe and the Middle East, a role aided by his knowledge of six languages.

"He taught probably 2,500 students in Baltimore," said his son, Mario VillaSanta of Baltimore. "He delivered many, many babies."

"He traveled around the world, and he would lecture," the son said.

Dr. VillaSanta was a member of many professional organizations, including the Baltimore City Medical Society, the Maryland Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists.

He was a member of international associations as well: the Peruvian Cancer Society, the European Society of Gynecologic Oncology and the Italian Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

Born in Italy, Dr. VillaSanta grew up in the city of Fiume and attended school in nearby Abbazia, communities on the Adriatic Sea about which he often reminisced. In 1943, his family fled to Trieste, which was under Italian control, to escape invading communist troops.

In 1944, he earned his bachelor's degree in Trieste.

His plans to attend medical school were disrupted by the Nazi invasion, and Dr. VillaSanta was forced into Hitler's army that year.

But during an air raid in Trieste, he joined the underground Italian resistance movement. He was wounded, but not captured, during guerrilla warfare aimed at weakening Nazi forces. After World War II, the Italian government awarded him medals for being wounded in action and for his resistance activities.

Dr. VillaSanta resumed his education and in 1950 graduated with highest honors from the medical school at the University of Padua.

He began his training in gynecology and obstetrics in hospitals in Trieste and Turin.

In 1953, the United States government awarded him a grant to study in America.

He went first to Syracuse, N.Y., to learn English. Dr. VillaSanta then began a residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he trained under Dr. Alan Guttmacher, who became a president of the Planned Parenthood Federation.

In 1954, he came to Baltimore to train briefly at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In Baltimore, Dr. VillaSanta met and married Marguerite Marino.

He returned to Mount Sinai Hospital for a year, and the couple lived in New York City.

They then settled in Baltimore, where he completed his residency at Bon Secours Hospital in 1958.

He went into private practice, and maintained offices in Catonsville, Highlandtown and Mount Vernon.

After four years, Dr. VillaSanta joined the faculty at the University of Maryland Medical School.

He was a history buff, and enjoyed sailing and the opera. Dr. VillaSanta was a wine collector, and enjoyed sharing bottles from his collection with friends and family.

He also skied, hiked and biked until his mid-70s, his family said.

Funeral services are private.

In addition to his wife of 53 years and son, he is survived by a daughter, Cristiana Paredes of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.

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