Dr. Henry Peter Rosas, a highly regarded Howard County surgeon and decorated Vietnam veteran, died of lymphoma Sunday at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Glenelg resident was 63.
Dr. Rosas, the son of a barber, was born and raised in Santa Barbara, Calif. After graduating from Santa Barbara High School in 1963, he attended Santa Barbara Community College for a year before enlisting in the Navy in 1964.
While serving as a naval corpsman in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968, he was decorated with the Bronze Star for bravery.
"His concern for others went well beyond the call of duty," said his wife of 31 years, the former Teresa L. Mills. "He was awarded the Bronze Star after he crawled into a minefield while risking his life to save four badly injured Marines."
After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 1968, Dr. Rosas began to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. He earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from California State University at Long Beach in 1972, and his medical degree in 1976 from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara School of Medicine.
He completed a general surgical residency at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey and a residency in thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Dr. Rosas rejoined the Navy in 1983 and later served aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy as a surgeon during the Gulf War, and headed the thoracic surgical department at the San Diego Naval Medical Center from 1991 to 1993.
After leaving the Navy with the rank of commander in 1997, Dr. Rosas moved to Columbia, where he established a general and thoracic surgical practice, and practiced at Howard County General Hospital and St. Agnes Hospital.
"Henry was a skilled and accomplished surgeon who was really loved by both the patients and staff. They really took to him. He was very endearing and had a warm and outgoing personality," said Victor A. "Vic" Broccolino, president of Howard County General Hospital.
"I don't think I've ever known a doctor as selfless as Henry," said Dr. Lisa R. Smirnow, an Eldersburg family practitioner and longtime friend of Dr. Rosas. "He always came in and did lots of pro bono work and never got paid. He volunteered and worked with a Howard County program that provided medical care to the uninsured."
"I don't think he got a good night's sleep in 20 or 30 years. They were always calling Henry, and he'd go in," she said.
Dr. Rosas also had a reputation for caring for patients other physicians had given up on, Dr. Smirnow said.
"They'd send them to Henry and he'd fix them up. He was an astute physician and wouldn't give up on them, and most of all, he wouldn't let them give up on themselves," she said. "And when he got sick, he was very brave. I don't think I'll ever meet anyone quite like him again."
After successfully treating Christine A. Gormley in 2000, Dr. Rosas became more than a physician to the Clarksville resident.
"He became like a brother and a dear friend to me. He saved my life and gave me hope when there wasn't any. He was strong, loving, compassionate, stubborn like a mule, and always there for you," Ms. Gormley said.
"He had the ability to make you feel as if you were the only patient he had in the world. When I was sick, he'd call my husband at midnight or come over and sit with him. You don't learn such compassion in medical school - you had to be born that way," Ms. Gormley said.
Despite a busy professional life, Dr. Rosas enjoyed spending time with his family, and was an avid fan of the Ravens and lacrosse.
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Harry H. Witzke's Family Funeral Home, 4112 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City. Plans for interment at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors were incomplete yesterday.
Also surviving are three sons, Christopher A. Rosas and Nicolas A. Rosas, both of Glenelg, and Gabriel A. Rosas of Seattle; and a granddaughter.