Dr. Jerome Reichmister, the recently retired chief of orthopedic surgery at Sinai Hospital, a LifeBridge Health center, knew he had dinner plans on the evening of Sept. 6, but that was about it.
His wife, Susan, reminded him the night before that they were to meet with a couple of friends, one of whom was Lynn Abeshouse, a colleague of Reichmister’s who serves on the board of LifeBridge Health. Susan coyly added that Abeshouse might have invited a couple of friends.
Unbeknownst to Reichmister, 78, Abeshouse and others had planned a gathering of 150 friends, colleagues and patients to celebrate Reichmister’s retirement.
When the JT reached Reichmister the next morning, the surprise had not yet worn off.
“I sit here this morning, still flabbergasted by it,” said Reichmister. “I was clueless. And I mean clueless.”
The celebration wasn’t the only surprise. It was also revealed that an endowment in his name, The Jerome P. Reichmister, M.D., Chief of Department of Orthopedics Endowment, worth $2.5 million from donations by more than 150 patients, colleagues, former colleagues, community members, board members and organizations, was founded to ensure the continuing legacy of the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics, which Reichmister played a pivotal role in founding in 2001. Future chiefs of the department, including Reichmister’s replacement, Dr. Ronald Dellanoif, will be known as the Jerome P. Reichmister, M.D., chief of orthopedic surgery.
The members of LifeBridge Health and Sinai Hospital had an awful lot to celebrate that evening, as Reichmister’s professional involvement with the hospital goes back to 1964, when he began as an intern.
In addition to becoming the assistant chief of orthopedics in 1984, and chairman of orthopedics in 1990, Reichmister served on the hospital’s board of directors, where he was the only physician, taking on roles of vice chairman from 2002 to 2005 and chairman from 2005 to 2008. He also served as the president of the medical staff from 1989 to 1991.
Not only did Abeshouse work with Reichmister on the board of directors until his final term ended in 2014, she was a longtime patient of his, and came to count him among her closest friends. She said the size of both the gathering and the $2.5 million endowment are a fitting tribute to the impact Reichmister had on so many lives.
“What it says is you’re dealing with a physician who is not only brilliant as a surgeon and a clinician, but you’re dealing with a person who is so loved for who he is as a human being,” she said. “His care and compassion and support of friends, colleagues and patients goes well beyond anyone.”
Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, similarly shares a three-fold relationship with Reichmister: colleague, patient and friend. During the course of their 30-year working relationship, Meltzer has helped and supported Reichmister in creating an orthopedic residency program, and later the Rubin Institute.
“Through the years, he’s taken a department that was relatively small and created the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics. His legacy is far reaching beyond the community, beyond Maryland and beyond this country,” said Meltzer.
The Rubin Institute employs more than 250 people and performs approximately 4,500 orthopedic procedures annually on patients from across the globe. Reichmister also worked in private practice from 1969 to 2013.
“You don’t often get to work with someone who wears so many hats and wears them well. Someone who truly appreciates the challenges that we all face and are facing together,” said Meltzer, who insists that a photo of Reichmister can be found upon searching for the definition of “mensch.”
Both Meltzer and Abeshouse highlighted Reichmister’s humility, despite his many accomplishments, which was evident during his interview with the JT. Although he never strayed far from the topic at hand, he used nearly every answer to highlight the accomplishments of others, such as pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Liebe Sokol Diamond.
“We had a terrific pediatric oncology program, but in pediatric orthopedics, we had one person — Dr. Liebe Diamond,” he said. “She was a mentor of mine, and I talked to her and began to wonder about where we could go at Sinai. The pediatric orthopedic department could grow.”
Reichmister also spoke of grasping many opportunities at different points in his career to attend Sunday breakfasts with the brotherhoods of various Baltimore synagogues to educate them about the history and then-current work Sinai was doing.
“People didn’t market hospitals, physicians didn’t market themselves. Hospitals didn’t tell people what they did,” Reichmister said. “What we were getting invariably was the same response, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know they did those things there. I didn’t know we had such talent there.’ It was a real eye- opening experience for the community.”
In fact, the closest Reichmister came to acknowledging his own accomplishments was to show gratitude to those who have supported him.
“When you look back on your life, you hope you’ve made a difference with your family and the community in which you live. That’s what I wanted to do,” said Reichmister. “I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been enabled by many who have helped me do this.”