Dr. John E. Steers remembered as a physician of great heart

Dr. John E. Steers remembered as a physician of great heart
Dr. John Steers (/ HANDOUT)

Dr. John E. Steers packed a great deal into one lifetime. He was an all American athlete, a chemical engineer and a father. He was a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, a manager with Bethlehem Steel and a widely respected surgeon.

But of all the things Steers did, it may have been his generosity that people will remember most.


“People in the community, have related to me stories of the generosity of my dad that were just so touching. Stuff he did without anybody knowing about it,” says Steers’ eldest son, Dr. John A. Steers, who practices in Westminster. “There was a girl in the community, I don’t know who she was, but apparently she didn’t have money to go to college and my dad found out about it and helped her out.”

Friends and family of the senior Steers have been hearing many of these stories for the first time: Steers died Sunday at the Carroll Hospice Dove House in Westminster. He was 83.

“He had a huge heart for people,” said his son, Scott Steers, about his father. “Now that he has passed on, people are just reaching out to me left and right and saying, ‘I knew your dad, he helped co-sign a home loan for me when I was younger. He saved my life.’ ”

“I always knew my father had a reputation of being a great man and a great surgeon at the hospital. That was the outward reputation,” John A. Steers added about his father, “But I really just didn’t know how many people he touched.”

The senior Steers came to medicine relatively late in life, leaving a successful career at Bethlehem Steel in the ’60s and graduating from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1971.

Later that year, he founded Carroll Surgical Associates and began a practice of general surgery in Westminster, a practice that at the time meant he saw almost every kind of injury. That’s in contrast to medicine today, according to John A. Steers, where surgery is so specialized.

“We have pediatric surgeons taking care of the babies, and we vascular surgeons taking care of the blood vessels,” he said. “Back when my father was doing all this back in the 1970s, they didn’t have those specializations.”

And so the senior Steers helped the victims of car crashes, children with appendicitis and whoever came into the Carroll Hospital emergency department needing surgery, and he left an impression on a great many people.

“My father retired in 2005, so it was 13 years since he was even a member of the medical community, and yet I still have patients that come in to me every week who are older who say my father saved their life,” John A. Steer said. “He literally took care of thousands of people in Carroll County.”

And Steers helped many other surgeons and nurses take care of people in Carroll County as well. He was already practicing and guiding others when Cheryl Humbert, patient care coordinator for the operating room, joined the hospital in 1974.

“He was always very willing to precept; he was always willing to teach; he was always very patient,” she said. “It was a pleasure to work with him, especially when you were just starting.”

It wasn’t just those new to medicine either. Both Humbert and Carroll Hospital President Leslie Simmons remember Steers as someone always willing to answer a call for help from another surgeon.

“He was such a mentor to his other surgeons, colleagues that they could call him if they needed advice or if they wanted to talk through a case,” Simmons said. “He would stop what he was doing and scrub in on a case with them to help them feel more comfortable and just to be an extra pair of hands and support for them.”

Mentorship was very important to Steers — and not just in the realm of medicine.


After a successful collegiate athletic career in basketball and football at Baltimore City College and Johns Hopkins University, Steers supported local sports in any way he could throughout the rest of his left, according to Scott Steers.

“He really valued sports and really felt it was a very important part of the physical and mental growth of young men,” Scott Steers said. “He always said a lot of the more valuable lessons you’ll learn, you’ll learn on the athletic field — whether it’s overcoming adversity or learning the value of working hard and how it changes you as an individual and helps you become successful in anything that you do.”

Steers was deeply involved in Scott Steers’ athletic pursuits from the time he could first play at age 5 or 6, whether it be coaching or providing financial assistance. Scott Steers said his father paid to have the football field at Westminster High School sodded at one point and at another bought helmets for the team, but that it was his father’s deep belief in the value of sports that made the greatest impression.

“It really drove me to become a coach and coach at the high schools in the county and the rec programs for football and lacrosse,” he said. “I can’t say enough about him at this point obviously. He was just a huge support.”

Even after he retired from medical practice in 2005, Steers continued to be a huge support for others, according to Simmons, providing surgical consultations at Access Carroll until 2012.

“It helped us be able to, at no cost to the patient, determine if a surgical intervention was necessary,” she said. “He was instrumental in working with the hospital to connect the patients to surgeons who would be able to provide surgical interventions, with the hospital sort of supporting that cost or the surgeon waiving their fee to help the patient. It was pretty amazing.”

It’s that kind of service to others that inspires John A. Steers now as he reflects on his father’s life and career in Carroll County.

“He was my mentor and my hero,” he said. “I hope that someday long after I am gone that I have touched that many people.”