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A Trio Lost

Fredrick J. Montz, M.D., 1955-2002.

A nationally recognized authority on gynecologic cancer, "Rick" Montz worked to refine less radical, fertility-preserving surgeries and to develop better, earlier screening methods. He was renowned at Hopkins and nationwide for his extraordinary ability to communicate with and comfort his patients with cancer. Among those featured in the 2000 ABC News documentary "Hopkins: 24/7," the pony-tailed Montz was known by millions who viewed the TV series. He received his M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and joined the Hopkins faculty in 1997. He was a professor of gynecology, obstetrics, oncology and surgery, and director of Hopkins Hospital's Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service.

My first impression of Dr. Montz was that I didn't know how to take him. There was the way he looked and then the way he spoke so quickly. He was very sure of himself and I was intimidated. I remember he said to me, Treat me like you treat your son and we'll get along just fine. My son wasn't even 2 at the time. I never did ask him what he meant, but I think it was his way of getting me to relax.

I saw him every day. All of his patients on chemotherapy were under my care. Sometimes as a nurse you can feel like the task person, doing everything that needs to get done behind the scenes. But Dr. Montz used to tell me, You run the program; I just sign the papers. He made every one of us aware that his success as a leader depended upon our individual successes. I felt valued as a person and as someone he needed. And he did that with everyone, the people who answered the phones and emptied the trash. That is a different concept.

I'd been a nurse for 10 years before I met him, but I'm different now from being around him. I'm more comfortable talking about end-of-life issues with patients, and maybe some of that comes with maturing as a person. But a lot of it has to do with watching him. It rubs off in a good way.

He was very personable. He knew what was going on in my life, and I knew what was happening in his. As professional colleagues, sometimes we're so busy we don't take the time for small talk and to get to know each other. He took the time.

On his last day, I had four or five patient issues to discuss with him. Of course he blew in the office like he usually does-the door whacks the wall-and told me I could talk to him while he was packing up for his next clinic. He had on this beautiful camel hair jacket and I asked him if I could touch it. He said, Yeah, I should have never bought this. I paid too much. But you only live once. That was one of the last things he said to me, and it was so like him.

I still feel like maybe I'll wake up from this bad dream. When someone comes in that door fast, and it reminds me of the way he used to come in that door fast, you look up, thinking, Maybe it's him. Your mind plays tricks on you. It's like your emotions aren't on the same path. In my head, I know he's gone, but my heart hasn't caught up. It'll be a very long time before it does.

Sharon Thompson
Chemotherapy Coordinating Nurse

Frederick J. Montz, M.D.   David A. Nagey, M.D., Ph.D.   Jeffery A. Williams, M.D.


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