Dr. Jay N. Karpa, a retired Baltimore surgeon who was also certified in chronic wound care, died Friday of prostate cancer at his Pikesville home. He was 79.
"As a person, he was a true gentleman. He was kind and compassionate and treated his patients like they were his family," said Dr. Alan S. Davis, who is chairman of the department of surgery at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown. "And he was a superb surgeon and was always cool and calm in the OR."
The son of Isador Karpa, a pharmacist, and Dora Karpa, a homemaker, Jay Norman Karpa was born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park.
Dr. Karpa attended the old Robert E. Lee School 49 on Cathedral Street and graduated in 1952 from City College. He earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
He entered medical school in 1954 at the University of Maryland, earning his medical degree in 1958. He completed a rotating internship and surgical residency under Dr. Arnold Seligman at Sinai Hospital in 1964.
Dr. Karpa, who maintained a private surgical practice, began his career in 1964 at Sinai Hospital. He also practiced at the old Baltimore County General Hospital, now Northwest Hospital, and was chief of surgery at North Charles General Hospital from 1982 to 1984.
He maintained offices at Rogers Avenue and then moved to Pomona Square. His office was at the Woodholme Medical Building at the time of his retirement in 2013.
Dr. Karpa served as a surgical consultant to several psychiatric hospitals and the Social Security Administration.
"I have known him for more than 20 years, and he was an outstanding surgeon, a remarkable diagnostician and very innovative," said Dr. Davis.
Certified in chronic wound care, he became chairman of the wound clinic at Northwest Hospital, where he initiated the hospital's hyperbaric oxygen therapy department.
Dr. Deirdre B. Alton, an anesthesiologist, worked with Dr. Karpa at Northwest Hospital for a decade.
"He was gentle, kind, so meticulous and caring. I never met a person quite like him. He was just so wonderful and a gentle giant," said Dr. Alton, who is now at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
"In the operating room, he never got rattled and treated everyone he worked with, with dignity," said Dr. Alton. "We could be in the operating room at 2 a.m. doing an appendectomy, and when we finished at 4 a.m., he made sure that everyone got safely to their car. He did that for the whole staff."
Dr. Alton recalled his sense of calmness.
"He never got upset and worked easily with the people in the operating room. He just did what needed to be done," she said. "He didn't care about the patients' insurance and just took care of them."
"He was an influence on my life," said a son, Dr. Michael David Karpa, an anesthesiologist who lives in Owings Mills. "He was a man to look up to and admire. He lived his life by setting a good example. He was soft-spoken, had a calm demeanor, and was incredibly intelligent."
A resident of Pikesville for 50 years, Dr. Karpa had studied piano at the Peabody Preparatory in his youth.
"He was a classical pianist," said his son.
Dr. Karpa also enjoyed scuba diving, photography, making home repairs and working on his cars.
"We had an old car, a 200 SX Nissan, and our mechanic refused to work on it after its engine was blown. So he rented a hoist and we pulled the engine, transmission and carburetor. I remember it well because I was in the middle of my residency," said his son.
"Imagine a surgeon doing this, but that's what he did. He bought a used engine and reinstalled it. We did it in four weekends, and it became a good car again until it threw a rod," said Dr. Karpa.
Dr. Karpa was a member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation for more than 70 years.
"He was a very observant man and a regular attendee at the synagogue," his son said. "It was a big part of his life."
Funeral services were Sunday at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc. in Pikesville.
In addition to his son, Dr. Karpa is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Elizabeth Jane Spindel, a registered nurse; another son, Jonathan Saul Karpa of Bethesda; two daughters, Debra Lynn Lincoff of Cleveland and Lisa Michelle Litt of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.; a sister, Marcia Crossman of Boynton Beach, Fla.; and eight grandchildren.