Dr. Ebrahim A. Gabbay, a Baltimore obstetrician-gynecologist whose career spanned 50 years and who was also a dedicated Francophile, died Saturday of complications from a stroke at Sinai Hospital.
The longtime Pikesville resident was 86.
"First of all, Albert loved his patients and was a superb doc and a top-notch surgeon. Technically, there was no one better," said Dr. Murray D. Pearlman, an OB-GYN who was a partner in Gabbay, Feldman and Pearlman.
"The patients mattered to him. It was always personal. They were like family to him," said Dr. Pearlman, who lives in Pikesville. "It was meant to be a family practice, and he instilled that in us. He wanted you to give the best every day, and he meant it."
The son of a businessman-educator and a homemaker, Ebrahim Albert Gabbay — he never used his first name, family members said — was born and raised in Isfahan, Iran, where he graduated from high school.
He entered a combined program at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, where he earned his medical degree with honors in 1955.
After completing a general internship at Lakewood Hospital in Lakewood, Ohio, Dr. Gabbay came to Baltimore in 1956, where he completed an OB-GYN residency in 1959 at Sinai Hospital, then located at Monument Street and Broadway in East Baltimore.
He established his OB-GYN practice in the Jefferson Bank Building on Reisterstown Road in 1960, and in the 1970s, moved to Sinai Hospital. For the last five years, the practice has been located at McDonogh Crossroads in Owings Mills.
Dr. Gerald B. "Jerry" Feldman, who lives in Pikesville, joined the practice in 1974.
"Albert was a very polite and quiet person and an excellent teacher. He was always a man of his word. When he said he'd do something, he did it," said Dr. Feldman.
"He had three rules for the practice. There were to be no spouses in the office. Never treat patients unfairly and never promise what you can't produce, he'd say. That's why no one ever left the practice," said Dr. Feldman.
"He was loved by all. It was difficult breaking into the practice because all the patients wanted Dr. Gabbay because they liked him so much. OB-GYN is not an easy specialty, but he had such a wonderful rapport with patients and did wonderfully by them," said Dr. Feldman.
"He was an excellent surgeon who had great hands and he taught us many things that are not in the book. And if you were in surgery and had problems, he'd come right in and help out," said Dr. Feldman.
"I was the third member to join the practice. You were both a partner and a friend," said Dr. Pearlman, who went to work with Dr. Gabbay in 1980. "Everything was done on a handshake. There were no written contracts. Albert is a very traditional European. It is always about your word."
Dr. Pearlman said that when new partners joined the practice, which has grown to eight, they had the same hours as the old hands,.
"He was an innately fair man and just because you were new, didn't mean you had to work more nights and weekends than anyone else," he said. "Everyone shared in the work."
Dr. Gabbay's loyalty to his patients was legendary. During the 1979 blizzard, he walked three miles from his Pikesville home to Sinai to tend to a patient who had gone into labor.
"He has been treating the generations of the same families since the 1960s," said Dr. Pearlman. "Those he delivered in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are now having babies."
Dr. Gabbay maintained a modest and low-key lifestyle in Baltimore.
"Even though he was incredibly successful, you never knew it. He lived in a modest home near Greenspring Avenue. He didn't have some mansion in Ruxton. He lived where his patients did," said Dr. Pearlman.
"He was a very normal person. Albert didn't drive a Rolls-Royce or any other fancy car," he said. "Actually, he preferred driving Toyotas."
He retired in 2010.
"Hundreds of letters poured in upon his retirement," said his wife of 56 years, the former Wilma Laufer, who holds a master's degree in audiology from Towson University, where she taught audiology, speech and hearing.
Dr. Gabbay was an avid flower gardener and cared for the more than 100 Tropicana rose bushes in his yard. He also enjoyed reading about military history and the history of France.
A Francophile, Dr. Gabbay was fluent in French, Persian and English. He and his wife maintained a second home in Villeneuve-Loubet on the French Riviera, where they spent several months each year.
"He always said he went to France to eat," said Mrs. Gabbay. "He adored French cuisine and wine."
Dr. Gabbay was a fan of classical music and especially of French singer Edith Piaf, his wife said.
He was a member of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.
Services were held Wednesday at Sol Levinson & Bros.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Gabbay is survived by two daughters, Suzanne Gabbay of Maui, Hawaii, and Alyssa Gabbay of Greensboro, N.C.; two brothers, Joseph "Jojo" Gabbay of Nice, France, and Elie Gabbay of Antibes; five sisters, Touren Laed and Rachel Mohaber both of Los Angeles, Zoleicha Omidvar, Essie Gabbay and Liza Gabbay, all of Jerusalem; and two grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun