Dr. Barry S. Gold

Age 61: Internist became an expert on venomous snakebites

Dr. Gold debunked the myths of cutting and sucking venom from snakebite wounds, icing them or using tourniquets because they actually make the situation worse.

July 05, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Dr. Barry S. Gold, a Baltimore internist and herpetologist who was an international expert on the management and treatment of venomous snakebites, died Monday of heart failure at Sinai Hospital.

The longtime Pikesville resident was 61.

Barry Steven Gold was born in Baltimore and raised on Menlo Drive in Northwest Baltimore. He was a 1965 graduate of City College and earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Maryland in 1969.

After earning a medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1973, he completed an internship and residency at Maryland General Hospital.

Dr. Gold's career path was altered after he had been bitten by a snake.

"When he was on a Boy Scout camping trip to Western Maryland, he was bitten by a rattlesnake and taken back to Baltimore, where he was given antivenom," said his wife of 19 years, the former Linell Cahn.

"About 20 years ago, he started researching about the treatments for venomous bites and became an expert in envenomation," Mrs. Gold said.

In addition to working with venomous snakes, Dr. Gold practiced internal medicine until retiring from private practice in 2005.

He then went to work at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where he practiced family medicine, and in the emergency department of the Veterans Administration Hospital in downtown Baltimore.

Dr. Gold was also a consultant to poison centers, as well as the National Aquarium, Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

"He'd get phone calls from as far away as Russia asking about how to treat a snakebite victim," Mrs. Gold said.

"People also called him because they found a snake in their backyard and they didn't know what to do. If it were a rat snake, for instance, he'd tell them not to kill it because they eat mice," she said.

In an article that Dr. Gold wrote in collaboration with Dr. Richard C. Dart and Dr. Robert A. Barish, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, the authors concluded that most snakebite victims are "typically male" and between 17 and 27 years old.

"Ninety-eight percent of bites are on extremities, most often on the hands or arms, and result from deliberate attempts to handle, harm, or kill the snake," the authors wrote.

"Most bites occur between April and September, when most snakes are active and humans are outdoors. Alcohol intoxication of the victim is a factor in many envenomations," they wrote.

"Barry was one of the finest physicians I've ever known. His level of knowledge was incomparable and everyone wanted him for their doctor," said Dr. Barish, vice dean for clinical affairs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a longtime friend.

"He also debunked the myths of cutting and sucking venom from snakebite wounds, icing them or using tourniquets because they actually make the situation worse and delay proper treatment," he said.

"The best treatment, really, is a set of car keys so you can get the patient to a hospital, and not panicking," Dr. Barish said.

In 2002, Dr. Gold said in an interview with The New York Times that those "old anecdotal methods of treating snakebites are outdated and really should be abolished."

He added: "In most cases, they just complicate the wound and cause a delay in getting treatment. Venomous snakebites require aggressive emergency medical care and, if necessary, antivenom to fight the potentially fatal poison."

He also was a frequent guest on radio and TV shows, where he spoke about how to avoid being bitten by a snake.

Dr. Gold also held several academic appointments. He was clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

His professional memberships included the Baltimore City Medical Society, the American College of Physicians, the International Society of Toxicology and the Maryland Herpetological Society.

Dr. Gold also had served as a physician-adviser to the cast and crew of Hollywood movies, including Tin Men, Hairspray and Patriot Games, which were filmed in the Baltimore area.

Dr. Gold had a pilot's license and enjoyed flying and Formula One auto racing. He also liked playing video games with his son.

Services were Wednesday.

Also surviving are a son, Samuel I. Gold, 17, and a daughter, Faith A. Gold, 16, both of Pikesville.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.