Harry S. Gimbel

[Age 96] A physician for 50 years, he continued making house calls long after other doctors stopped doing so.

May 03, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun reporter

Dr. Harry S. Gimbel, an old-fashioned general practitioner who made house calls long after others had stopped, died Sunday in his sleep at his Pikesville home. He was 96.

Dr Gimbel practiced for about 50 years, and patients who came to his Catonsville office were seen without appointments. His two sons are orthopedic surgeons who live in Phoenix, Ariz.

Dr. Gimbel worked seven days a week and would leave work late in the afternoon, rest for half an hour, eat dinner at 5 p.m., and then return to his office, where he saw patients until 9 p.m.

"He did this three or four nights a week," recalled one of his sons, Dr. Neal I. Gimbel.

Another son, Dr. Joseph S. Gimbel, recalled that his father made house calls at all hours, long after that medical ritual faded into obscurity. He made those house calls in his Buick or his lavender-colored Oldsmobile 88.

No matter how crowded his waiting room, it wasn't uncommon for Dr. Gimbel to spend 30 minutes or more talking and listening to his patients.

The elder Dr. Gimbel, the son of a real estate agent, was born in Baltimore and raised on Glen Avenue. He graduated from City College in 1928, and earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1932.

"He went into medicine because his mother and father told him he had to," said Neal Gimbel. "And I guess because of his exposure and influence, it was just assumed that I'd go into medicine."

After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1936, he interned at the old West Baltimore General Hospital, which later became Liberty Medical Center. He also completed a residency at the old Sydenham Hospital in East Baltimore.

While a resident at Sydenham, Dr. Gimbel and two other physicians, Drs. Horace L. Hodes and George W. Burnett, were successful in treating patients suffering from pneumococcic meningitis with sulfapyridine, then a new drug, reported the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1939.

After leaving Sydenham in 1939, Dr. Gimbel established his practice in an office on Edmondson Avenue, where he remained for nearly 40 years before moving to Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville in 1978.

Family members said Dr. Gimbel never complained about the phone ringing in the wee hours.

"He'd get up, get dressed and go and see them. He loved his patients, and he didn't mind if it was day or night when they called," Joseph Gimbel said.

He was married in 1938 to the former Sylvia Hurwitz.

"I remember we went to the movies to see Unfinished Symphony, and in those days, if you were a physician, you left your number with the box office in case someone needed you. Then they'd flash the number on the lower part of the screen," Mrs. Gimbel recalled.

"Three times we tried to see that movie, and three times he was called. We never did get to see the end of it," she said, laughing.

Cheryl A. Vecchione worked for a decade in Dr. Gimbel's office.

"He knew his patients and their families. He took the time, and they really cared about him. They don't make doctors like him anymore," she said.

At his 1993 retirement party, hundreds of his patients came to honor their longtime physician and friend. Others wrote him letters.

"There is such a void when I realize I can't turn to you anymore. Always, when I felt hopeless, you gave me hope. When I felt overwhelmed, you gave me encouragement. When I felt down, you gave me a hug," one patient wrote. "When I was in pain, you eased it. And when I was alone, you let me know you were there."

Another patient has continued to remember Dr. Gimbel at Christmas and Easter with flowers. This past Easter, she included a card saying she made a $1,000 donation to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to help an "aspiring Jewish medical student," she wrote.

Dr. Gimbel enjoyed playing golf and was a member of the Woodholme Country Club. He was also a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation.

Services were held Tuesday.

Also surviving are a daughter, Phyllis G. Winner of Owings Mills; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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