When Dr. Louis L. Randall was summoned to Sinai Hospital Aug. 24, 1963, because Ruth Brown was about to give birth, he had no idea that he would later be working with the child who was about to be born.
The young obstetrician had just returned from a four-year tour as an Army doctor in California. The baby, Nancy Brown, was one of his first civilian deliveries.
The delivery was routine but started a lifelong relationship that culminates next week when Dr. Nancy Brown-Holt joins Dr. Randall's office as the newest member of his Randallstown obstetrics-gynecology practice.
"I feel very fortunate to have her here although I didn't know then that I was growing my own replacement," said Dr. Randall, 61. "We tried to make sure she didn't go anywhere else."
Actually, when Dr. Brown-Holt takes her first steps into private
practice, her mentor won't even be on hand. "I'm giving her the orientation and then I'm off on vacation. That's what Dr. [William] Hall did to me when I came back from the Army in 1963. He showed me around for a couple of days and left. But other people will be here if she needs help," Dr. Randall said.
Dr. Brown-Holt traveled a long road to get to this point. In 1981, she was among the earliest female graduates of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Four years later, she graduated from Brown University and went on to the Johns Hopkins Medical School, graduating in 1989. Earlier this month, she finished her four-year residency at Sinai.
Despite attractive offers elsewhere, she said, she chose to practice in her home town, recognizing "a great opportunity" to practice with physicians she knows and respects.
"When you're just starting out, it's important to have people you not only trust as professionals but also as people, and I have that here," she said.
Over the years, there has been a close relationship between Dr. Randall and the Brown family. He also delivered Dr. Brown-Holt's sister, Ellyne, 28, who is now a veterinarian.
As Dr. Brown-Holt fixed her sights on a medical career, Dr. Randall was always there as an encouraging figure. "He wasn't pushing one way or the other. He was just here to help," Dr. Brown-Holt said.
She also said she first considered becoming a pediatrician, but changed her mind after a brief internship in an HMO in Baltimore.
"I liked working with young mothers better than with young children," she said with a laugh. "I came in to talk to Dr. Randall and once he found out I was going into OB-Gyn, he was really happy and he was there to support me."
Dr. Brown-Holt said Johns Hopkins was "a wonderful place to go to medical school," but, for her residency, Sinai offered more of what she wanted in her specialty.
By the end of her first-year residency, she said, she was able to "do everything but the most complicated things, even C-sections." She said she has "already stopped counting" how many babies she has delivered.
While she was at Hopkins and Sinai, Dr. Brown-Holt said, she spent time with young women, some of them single mothers. She tried to encourage them to make something of their lives. "I told them that there are women out there who are willing to talk and help," she said.
In one instance, Dr. Brown-Holt said, she met a teen-age mother who desperately wanted to go to college but seemingly had no chance. The doctor said she talked with the girl and worked with her "and she's going to enter Morgan [State University] in September."
Diverse opportunities are available for people who are willing to work for them, Dr. Brown-Holt said. Women made up 35 to 40 percent of her Hopkins class of 1989, the most ever in one class. Eight minorities were in the class, including three black women.
Dr. Brown-Holt said she will continue to help other women to have children for a few more years before trying motherhood. She and Harry Holt, a senior consult with Price Waterhouse, the accounting firm, married soon after she graduated from Brown, but they made chose not to have children while she was in med school and residency training.
"Some women have done it, but it's hard. It's very difficult for female residents in specialties like surgery and OB-Gyn. . . . It's hard to operate when you're pregnant," she said, laughing as she pantomimed a very pregnant woman trying to lean over an operating table.
Unusual as it may be that she is going to work with the doctor who delivered her, lightning could strike again, Dr. Brown-Holt said.
At the reception the outgoing Sinai Hospital residents hold for the incoming group, she met Dr. Angela Hopkins, fresh from the University of North Carolina Medical School.
"It was just a casual chat over hot dogs and ribs," Dr. Brown-Holt said. "We talked about where we came from and everything. She said she was from Baltimore and then I said, 'oh no,' and it just came out -- Dr. Randall had delivered her, too."