The Baltimore City Health Department has named an award after the late Dr. Sebastian Russo and the first award will be presented by the mayor at 10 this morning.
I drive past St. Dominic Church in Hamilton, Northeast Baltimore, now and then, and each time I do, I remember Sebastian Russo, the last of the "five-dollar docs." I attended his funeral at St. Dominic's 26 years ago -- Feb. 27, 1981. Dr. Russo treated many patients with no expectation of being paid. He had no computerized billing system. He had no weekend answering service; people could call him at any time, and he'd answer the phone. He avoided prescribing drugs as a quick solution to ailments. Sebastian Russo visited the old and the sick. He was a doctor without borders -- he treated anyone who walked in, the priest at his funeral said, even "a thuggy creature from the street." Someone like that killed Sebastian Russo. Someone carrying a concealed weapon shot the doctor in his office on a Friday night, and though police have never solved the crime, they suspected that the killer was an addict looking to steal drugs, or money for drugs. Dr. Russo died in the line of duty.