Dr. Patricia Charache, an internationally known Johns Hopkins Medicine infectious diseases specialist and medical microbiologist who was also a distinguished professor of pathology, died Saturday at the Edenwald retirement community in Towson of complications following surgery.
She was 85.
"One off her many contributions was patient safety long before it became a buzzword. She was very determined and driven that no unnecessary harm would be done," said Dr. Ralph H. Hruban, professor of pathology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chairman of the residency training program for its department of pathology.
"She was a remarkable woman. She was really a pioneer faculty member who broke a lot of barriers and pushed forward. She was promoted as the 30th woman professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine," said Dr. Hruban."That says a lot. Today, we're now passing 200 full-time [female] professors in the School of Medicine."
The daughter of two physicians — Harold S. Connamacher and Carye-Belle Henle — Patricia Connamacher was born and raised in Maplewood, N.J., where she graduated in 1948 from Maplewood High School.
"She originally planned to be a reporter," said her daughter, Barbara Elizabeth Coleman, of Parkville, a registered nurse who is senior research nurse at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
She attended Oberlin College from 1948 to 1951, and while at the Ohio college, she met and fell in love with Dr. Samuel Charache, whom she married in 1951.
The couple moved to New York City, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1952 from Hunter College. In 1953, she was accepted to the New York University School of Medicine, where she earned her medical degree in 1957.
While attending medical school, Dr. Charache began her lifelong interest in and appreciation of microbiology. From 1957 to 1958, she completed an internship in internal medicine at the old Baltimore City Hospitals.
From 1958 to 1962, she performed several research and clinical fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania, and ultimately at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's division of allergy and infectious diseases.
She completed additional research training in the department of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital in Boston, where she worked in immunology and rheumatic fever.
Dr. Charache came to Hopkins in 1964 as an instructor in the School of Medicine in the division of infectious diseases, and from 1966 to 1969 was also assistant chief of medicine at Baltimore City Hospitals.
"She persevered in a male-dominated work environment, taking jobs that were perceived as beneath the male faculty. No obstacle was insurmountable and she was a catalyst for change," said Dr. Karen C. Carroll, director of microbiology at Hopkins.
"Her microbiology career paralleled her infectious diseases consultative practice and, as both departments grew, her responsibilities and contributions grew proportionally," said Dr. Carroll.
When Dr. Charache came to Hopkins, the microbiology laboratory was part of the department of medicine, and she served as its medical director from 1967 to 1970. It later became part of the department of pathology, where she served as director of the division of microbiology and its various laboratories from 1973 to 1993.
She added faculty members to the lab and created a new organizational structure. As a result of her work, it gained national recognition.
"Later in her career, her focus was on the development of new approaches to detect microbial pathogens — including AIDS and tuberculosis," said Dr. Carroll.
Dr. Charache stepped down as the department's director in 1993 and became the department of pathology's deputy director of clinical affairs, physician adviser and director of quality improvement, positions she held until 1996.
From 1996 to 2003, she was director of Park Medical Laboratories and for 18 months served as director of the Zayed Military Hospital's department of pathology and associated hospitals in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Eremites.
She also held a joint appointment in the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for many years. From 1998 until her retirement this month, she was director of quality assessment and outcomes research programs at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Her expertise was often called for in interesting cases. When a frozen 500-year-old mummy of a teenage Inca girl was discovered in 1996 high atop Mount Ampato in Peru, Dr. Charache was part of the research team at Hopkins that studied the preserved remains. The team determined the girl's death had been caused by a blow to the head, likely occurring during a sacrificial ritual ceremony designed to please the Inca gods.
Dr. Charache attended services at the Towson Universalist Unitarian Church in Lutherville.
A longtime resident of Sulgrave Avenue in Mount Washington, she enjoyed travel and going to art museums and the theater. She was also a gourmet cook and an avid Orioles and Ravens fan.
Plans for memorial services, to be held at Edenwald and Johns Hopkins Hospital, are incomplete.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her husband of 64 years, professor emeritus of pathology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; a brother, Robert Connamacher of Pittsburgh; a sister, Jane Pier of Hidden Valley, N.J.; and four grandchildren.