Dr. Michael L. DeVincentis, a retired Baltimore surgeon who was a pioneer in emergency medicine and a co-founder of Osler Drive Emergency Physicians Associates, died Nov. 11 of congestive heart failure at his Homeland residence.
Dr. DeVincentis, who went by the nickname DeVee, was 96.
"DeVee was one of the good old boys in medicine. He was a darn good diagnostician, which generally most surgeons aren't," said Dr. Max English, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist, who was a member of Osler Drive Emergency Physicians Associates.
The son of an Italian immigrant clothing designer and a homemaker, Dr. DeVincentis was born in Baltimore and raised in the city's Pimlico neighborhood.
After graduating in 1933 from Calvert Hall College High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1937 from what is now Loyola University of Maryland.
Dr. DeVincentis served in the Pacific as a combat surgeon. At the time of his discharge in 1946, he had attained the rank of captain and been awarded the Bronze Star.
He returned to Mercy to continue his surgical internship and was certified by the American Board of Surgery in 1948.
He established a private surgical practice on St. Paul Street and was also the Baltimore Police Department's surgeon.
After two decades in private practice, Dr. DeVincentis was a co-founder with five other doctors of Osler Drive Emergency Physicians Associates — ODEPA — at what is now St. Joseph Medical Center.
"At the time, St. Joe was looking to make changes in how they approached emergency medical care. It was incredible what the ODEPA founders did. It was revolutionary," said Dr. Neal R. Frankel, a member of ODEPA who researched and wrote a history of its founding.
"In those days, emergency rooms, which were also called accident rooms, were often in hospital basements. They were staffed by interns and folks just out of medical school who were not really experienced," he said.
"Emergency care — long considered a necessary evil by hospital administrators and an unwanted chore by house doctors — is now one of the nation's most serious public health problems," said a 1968 profile in Maryland Living, the old News American's Sunday magazine.
"St. Joseph's Hospital, just north of the Baltimore City line, is experimenting with a new form of emergency room organization that will be watched closely by other Maryland hospitals," said the profile. "The system, presently in use in only three other cities, will hopefully reduce the number of tragic emergency room mistakes that cause thousands of unnecessary deaths each year."
The founding six physicians, whose average age was 50 and who had operated successful practices, worked six-hour shifts to cover all emergencies that arrived at the hospital. It was to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another requirement was that they had to give up their private practice and devote themselves exclusively to the emergency room and work on a fee-for-service basis.
In Dr. Frankel's history, he recalled that Dr. DeVincentis was becoming increasingly disenchanted with his practice even though he was making a good living. Because this was the era before cellphones and pagers, he had grown tired of "living close to the telephone," and thought ODEPA would be both professionally satisfying and a new challenge.
Sister Mary Pierre, a Franciscan sister who was the hospital's administrator, reluctantly agreed to lend the physicians $15,000 a month — $2,500 apiece — to help them get ODEPA off the ground. It proved to be so successful they were able to retire the original loan in six months.
Today, ODEPA is "still a democratic Emergency Medicine group with 10 board certified emergency physicians," wrote Dr. Frankel; it also includes physician's assistants and several nurse practitioners.
"This was a time before Maryland Shock Trauma. It was a very bold idea, and what they created elevated emergency medicine," said Dr. Frankel. "Dr. DeVincentis was an excellent surgeon and had a phenomenal reputation. He contributed a lot to Maryland health care."
Dr. DeVincentis told Dr. Frankel he was proud of the physicians for taking "risks during the time we had established practices and were raising kids."
He was a charter member of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Dr. DeVincentis retired in 1983.
His hobbies included studying foreign languages, travel and following international politics. When he was 83, he enrolled in evening classes at Roland Park Country School to become fluent in conversational Italian.
He was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Thursday.
Surviving are his wife of 57 years, the former Rosemary Kathryn Ingrao; a son, Michael L. DeVincentis Jr. of Timonium; two daughters, Rosemary "Cookie" Schneider of Stoneleigh and Angela DiBlasi of Homeland; and five grandchildren.