Dr. George Herbert Greenstein, an orthopedic surgeon who in retirement led the Maryland Defense Force's volunteer medical unit, died of complications from diabetes Friday at Northwest Hospital Center. The Pikesville resident was 84.
He began practicing in the Baltimore area in 1955 and retired about 10 years ago. He built a private practice, and was an attending physician at numerous hospitals, serving at the free clinics at several of them.
In February 1994, as he was preparing to retire, he joined the Maryland Defense Force, serving as the chief of the medical unit, and was promoted to colonel. He was active in setting up CPR units around the state. The defense force augments the Maryland National Guard.
"He was extremely sweet and gentle and very kind," said his longtime partner in private practice, Dr. Arthur Baitch. "He'd make rounds after hours on his patients, late at night, spending a lot of time at bedsides. He is what everyone would like to have as their doctor."
At the same time, he said, he was demanding of the health care workers around him and of hospitals where he practiced, serving on many hospital and medical committees.
He was the head of orthopedic surgery at North Charles General Hospital from 1959 to 1980. He was chief of orthopedic surgery at Baltimore County General Hospital (now Northwest Hospital Center) from 1964 to 1990, and served as president of the medical staff from 1975 to 1977.
He also was on the attending staff of numerous facilities in the Baltimore area. Among them were Sinai Hospital, where he was president of the medical staff in 1977, University of Maryland Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital.
He held academic appointments at the University of Maryland School of Medicine starting in 1955 and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine starting in 1956.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was a consultant for a series of patient-education videos and films on back pain, hip replacement and the use of crutches.
He continued to do consultations until about five years ago.
Born and raised in the city, he grew up in West Baltimore, where his parents ran a grocery store. He graduated from City College in 1937 and received a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1941, where was in ROTC.
After receiving his commission as a second lieutenant, he served in the Army from 1942 through 1946, rising to the rank of major. Wounded twice in combat during World War II, he served with the 4th Armored Division in Europe and was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He retired from active service because of his injuries.
He received his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1950 and interned at Sinai Hospital before training in orthopedics at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City and at Boston City Hospital.
The private practice he established now includes 12 physicians.
He worked for another physician in Baltimore briefly before opening his practice on Eutaw Place in 1960. A year later, he was joined by Dr. Baitch. The offices were destroyed in a 1967 fire. They moved to temporary offices nearby before relocating the practice in 1970 to Slade Avenue in Baltimore County, where the practice stayed for three decades.
In 2000, it moved to Crossroads Drive in Owings Mills.
He was a founding member of the Maryland Orthopaedic Association and served as its president in 1965-1966. Among other offices he held was on the Board of Governors of the Baltimore County Medical Association in 1990.
He married Vera Berkowitz in 1946.
He was a member of Beth El Congregation in Pikesville.
"His favorite place to go other than work or home was the hardware store. He would just walk through hardware stores for hours. And he loved to tinker," said his son, Dr. Yakov Greenstein, a Brooklyn, N.Y. rabbi and physician.
He designed the home in which he lived for 40 years.
In retirement, he was an avid reader.
Funeral services were Friday.
In addition to his wife of 58 years and his son, survivors include a daughter, Dr. M.A. Greenstein of Los Angeles; a sister, Evelyn Rosenthal of Baltimore; four grandsons; three granddaughters; and three great-grandchildren.