Dr. G. Lee Russo, a retired neurosurgeon and shock trauma pioneer who played jazz piano at local restaurants, died of cancer Jan. 12 at his Glen Arm home. He was 85.
Born Gerard Lee Russo in Baltimore and raised on Pelham Avenue, he was the son of Leo Carmelo Russo, president of the C.D. Kenny coffee and tea firm, and his wife, Marie Folio. He attended Shrine of the Little Flower School and was a 1951 graduate of Loyola High School. He also studied piano at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.
He earned a bachelor’s degree at what is now Loyola University Maryland, where he received the Palma Nobilis prize for excellence in Latin.
“At first he wanted to be a Greek and Latin teacher,” said his daughter, Paula Russo of Lakeville, Conn. “But he changed his mind when he met the physician father of a close school friend.”
Dr. Russo had a private practice and worked in a partnership with other surgeons on York Road in Towson.
“He was an excellent neurosurgeon,” said Dr. Michael P. Zimring, a physician who lives in Howard County. “I recall one day consulting with him in the emergency room. He had an unconscious patient who appeared to have a blood clot on the brain. Dr. Russo immediately pulled out a medical instrument, made an incision and the blood clot drained. The patient soon awoke and recovered.
“Lee was a kind, practical guy who was appreciative of anything done for him,” said Dr. Zimring.
Dr. Russo was also chief of neurosurgery at Mercy Medical Center, where he was president of the medical staff, served on the hospital’s board and was chair of the patient quality care committee.
Mercy Medical Center’s president, Thomas R. Mullen, said, “He was a man of many talents. He was soft-spoken and intelligent.”
As a young surgeon, Dr. Russo worked closely with Dr. R Adams Cowley, the founder of the the newly forming University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. They were co-authors of medical studies about brain and spinal injury resulting from accidents.
His daughter, Paula Russo, recalled her father’s bedside manner. “I called my father ‘a country doctor neurosurgeon.’ He spent a lot of time with his patients and would often sit with a family and discuss a case until he felt they absorbed the medical circumstances. He also liked to mentor young physicians who studied with him.”
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 61 years, Mary Jane Nimmo, who worked in research and development in Black and Decker’s medical division; another daughter, Susan Russo Walker of Towson; and three grandchildren.