IF YOU WANT to make Morton I. Rapoport turn shy, his associates say, just compliment him.
So perhaps the newly retired president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical System will pardon us for any discomfort these next words may inflict.
For this is a doctor who has used his healing gifts and business acumen not only for the benefit of patients, but also to help engineer a brighter future for the blighted swath of western downtown surrounding the medical facilities he was tapped to take private.
Since the separation of the University of Maryland and its former hospital in 1984, Dr. Rapoport has presided over two decades of expansion, acquisition and modernization to build a regional network of world-class medical programs. When Dr. Rapoport took the helm, what was then University Hospital had reported a decade of multimillion-dollar deficits; he guided the new business to the comfort of consistent profits, and built its fund-raising program from scratch. He began with the hospital, the renowned shock trauma unit and a cancer center - now there are six hospitals and specialty programs for cancer research and for organ transplants. He oversaw the expansion of the trauma facility, where he once worked as a specialist in infectious diseases.
He'd forecast a need for extra space in a new building when it was still on the drawing board; then, before the final touches were completed, he'd be planning for growth's next stage, says John C. Erickson, chairman of the medical system's board.
That would have been enough, but he envisioned the system's new towers as sentinels of a larger renaissance: that day on the horizon when hospital employees can dash up the street to a fine restaurant, a bookstore, boutiques; when nurses and residents can walk safe streets to work from nearby luxury apartments, or catch a Broadway show close to home on a night off. To healing downtown, he also applied his skills and connections.
Enough was never enough for Dr. Rapoport, who remains an adviser to the medical system's leaders but calls them his mentors. Baltimoreans will be walking in his footsteps on the west side for years to come.