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‘Dr. Rao,’ longtime leader of Harford Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, retires

Longtime Harford Memorial Hospital Emergency Department leader Dr. Rajagopala Rao Tripuraneni, better known to his patients and colleagues as Dr. Rao, retired at the end of January.
Longtime Harford Memorial Hospital Emergency Department leader Dr. Rajagopala Rao Tripuraneni, better known to his patients and colleagues as Dr. Rao, retired at the end of January.(Courtesy University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health)

When University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital’s Dr. Rajagopala Rao Tripuraneni, better known to his patients and colleagues as Dr. Rao, retired at the end of January, he reflected on how Emergency Medicine has changed since he arrived at the hospital in 1978.

At that time Emergency Medicine was a new specialty. The advancement of the practice and the outlook on these specialists by the medical community has evolved over those 42 years. The Emergency Medicine specialists gained respect from their peers. The way patients were treated also changed for the better.

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Dr. Rao felt called to focus his career on this new specialty, becoming a full-time attending physician in the Emergency Department at University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital. While he says Emergency Medicine is a challenging branch of medicine, he pursued it because of all the good it does for the community. In addition, he is board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine.

“Dr. Rao has been an invaluable team member for the past 42 years. His knowledge and experience in the Emergency Department are second to none,” said Lyle E. Sheldon, president/CEO of University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, in a prepared statement. “Patients received excellent care from Dr. Rao, and he mentored many doctors over the years. We thank him for all he did to improve health care in Harford County and wish him a long and enjoyable retirement.”

It’s estimated that Dr. Rao treated nearly 180,000 patients in the Emergency Department during his 42-year tenure at Harford Memorial. In addition, he also treated four generations of some families during that time.

“Not a single day did I think I don’t want to be here. It’s a blessing. I love what I do,” Dr. Rao said in a prepared release.

He served as medical director of the Emergency Department at Harford Memorial Hospital starting in late 1996 and remained in that leadership role until 2012.

His love of Emergency Medicine led him to become Harford County EMS Medical director in 1988 and continued until 2015. He took on this role after observing the critical work and care EMS members provided to patients coming to the Emergency Department.

“I was inspired by the EMS personnel, particularly those coming in with patients in the middle of the night and challenging weather conditions,” Dr. Rao explained. He wanted to give back to his community and embraced the opportunity to oversee Harford County’s emergency medical services.

During his career he also served as medical director for the Chesapeake Health Initiative Program (CHIP) at Perry Point VA Hospital. He worked with nurse educators from Harford County and Perry Point VA Hospital to provide advanced cardiac life support programs several times a year.

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His advice to someone entering Emergency Medicine today is to be “interested in the people you are treating. It’s challenging. Sometimes, we need to treat and stabilize the person first before diagnosing the condition,” he explained.

A Bel Air resident, Dr. Rao is married and the father of two grown children. His daughter is an oral surgeon and lives in Harford County with her husband, an orthopedic surgeon/joint reconstruction. His son is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint reconstruction in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Now that he has retired, he wants to volunteer more. Dr. Rao plans to volunteer with EMS in Harford County. In addition, he served on the board of trustees for 12 years at Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham and continues volunteer work at the temple.

While he was working daily in Emergency Medicine and EMS, his professional commitments over the years kept his other volunteering in the community minimal. However, one accomplishment from the past about which he is proud is serving on SARC’s board in the 1980s.

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