Dr. Robert Russell Kent, a cardiologist who left his field to serve Baltimore AIDS patients and the sick in Third World countries, died of cancer Monday at his home in Lutherville. He was 77.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Washington, D.C., he was a 1951 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School. After attending the Johns Hopkins University for three years as an undergraduate, he entered the Air Force as a pilot. He and his wife, the former Joankay Woodside, were married at Andrews Air Force Base.
After his military service, he earned a degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1965 and completed his internship and a fellowship in cardiology at Hopkins Hospital in 1969. He then joined the staff of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center as chief resident in medicine and later established a private practice in internal medicine. At GBMC, he also served as one of the first directors of its intensive care unit.
"He was a stellar cardiologist who saved many lives while at GBMC," said a colleague, Dr. Carla S. Alexander, a faculty member of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Family members said that after his years in private practice, he made a decision to turn his skills to humanitarian efforts, serving the people of Baltimore and those overseas.
He established an early substance abuse program at the Wyman Park Health System Hospital. Later, when thousands of Baltimoreans and Marylanders became infected with HIV, he became medical director of the Chase Brexton Clinic in Mount Vernon.
"He started his career all over again and went into the field of addictions," said Dr. Alexander. "He took care of and helped thousands of people in Baltimore."
She said that while "he didn't proselytize," he would often ask a patient if it would be helpful to pray together. "He was a very spiritual man," she said.
She recalled that he made himself feel at home with patients in some of Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods.
"He could live with street people and addicts. He told me, 'Other people suffer, and I need to suffer as well,'" Dr. Alexander said.
She said that Dr. Kent had a calming demeanor that helped him assist patients.
"There wasn't anything he didn't know, but he also had the patience to sit with people for hours," Dr. Alexander said. "He was strong, kind and funny."
Family members said that he retired about 10 years ago, but his calling to help others continued. He went on trips overseas to bring medical care to developing countries.
"I knew him years ago as an intelligent and bright physician and a wonderful cardiologist," said Dr. Marcio Menendez, an internist who lives in Timonium. "Then, about 10 years ago, we joined the St. Clare Outreach Program and began treating the uninsured of Baltimore. He was a generous and giving man."
Dr. Kent set up a medical clinic in Iraq in 2003 after the start of the war. He took numerous trips to Rwanda in Africa, South and Central America, and Asia sponsored by medical groups and religious agencies.
"He had a heart for missions," said Debbie Dunn, an associate pastor at Trinity Assembly of God Church. "He liked to study the deep things in the Bible. He was not a surface Christian. You could never talk to him without feeling better about any situation you were going through."
Dr. Kent and his wife enjoyed traveling throughout the United States with their Airstream trailer. They also spent time on the Eastern Shore.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Trinity Assembly of God Church, 2122 W. Joppa Road, Lutherville.
In addition to his wife of 56 years, survivors include two daughters, Tara Kay McDonough of Sparks and Tami Kathleen Kent-Green of Finksburg; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.