Longtime surgeon ready to ‘live life outside hospital’
Dr. Subhashis Maitra says it’s time to find out what life is all about.
After more than 35 years in the medical field, including the last 29 years in Altoona, Maitra, 60, a vascular surgery specialist, officially retired Feb. 28.
“I need to give back to my wife (Linda) for the sacrifices she has given and for our parents.
“I haven’t seen life since my residency,” Maitra said. “I just want to live life outside of the hospital. My life has been dedicated to my career and patients, now it is time to give back to my wife and parents and find out what life is.”
Maitra was born in India and his family moved to New Jersey in 1973. After graduating from North Plainfield High School in 1976, he went on to Rutgers University and majored in biochemistry. After graduation, he decided to enter the medical field and enrolled at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Rutgers Medical School and graduated in 1985.
He spent his residency at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, studying both general and vascular surgery.
After finishing his residency, Maitra set out to find a job. He admitted he didn’t necessarily plan on coming to Altoona.
“I came here to learn how to interview. I went with the doctors and I was so impressed with this town,” Maitra said. “We went to see patients, they were so appreciative of the doctors. It was a different kind of patient population than I would see in the city. I was impressed by the kindness of the people I met. I decided I wanted to come here and not keep interviewing.”
He came to what was then the Mercy Regional Health System in June 1992. His career has spanned Mercy Regional, Bon Secours Holy Family Hospital, Altoona Regional Health System and now UPMC Altoona. Over the years, he performed surgeries at facilities known today as Conemaugh Nason Medical Center and Penn Highlands Tyrone.
Maitra had more experience with carotid artery disease or carotid endarterectomy, arteriovenous malformation and aortic aneurysm or dissection than other specialists in his area, according to longtime friends and colleagues Drs. Pradip and Asha Swain.
While focusing on vascular surgery — a surgical subspecialty in which diseases of the vascular system, or arteries, veins and lymphatic circulation are managed by medical therapy, minimally-invasive catheter procedures and surgical reconstruction — Maitra did a lot of work with dialysis patients.
“There is a huge population of diabetics in the area. I got patients from 18 full-time units, from as far away as St. Marys and from every direction. That was a huge part of my practice,” Maitra said.
Maitra performed thousands of surgeries over the course of his career with amazing dexterity and precision, the Swains said. They said he saved many lives with surgeries to repair ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms, one of the lengthiest and most difficult procedures to perform.
“We have never seen a physician that has possessed the talent, work ethic and dedication to his patients and his craft, like Dr. Maitra. Plain and simple, Dr. Maitra is the best vascular surgeon we have ever known,” the Swains said.
Maitra saved the life of the man he called his mentor, Dr. Teruo Matsumoto, who was his chairman in residency at Hahnemann.
“He taught me all of my skills and work ethic. He said patients came first and you never give up on patients. No matter how tired you are, you never stop with helping the patient,” Maitra said.
Matsumoto was diagnosed with stomach cancer and was told it was inoperable.
“He went to Japan and several other cancer centers. He then came here, he said he was dying from cancer. I operated on him and he lived another four years; this was in 2013. I gave back to him for what he had given me. He was dying, I gave his life back to him,” Maitra said.
UPMC officials speak highly of Maitra.
“Dr. Maitra provided excellent, compassionate care to his patients. He worked long hours to make sure that they received the care they needed. He cared about his patients as individuals and oftentimes, due to their disease process, would see them for many years,” said Jan Fisher, president of UPMC Altoona and UPMC Bedford Memorial.
Mike Corso, vice president of operations for UPMC Altoona and UPMC Bedford Memorial, first met Maitra in 1994 at the Mercy Regional Health System.
“He had an excellent reputation as a surgeon and as a person. He was an innovator in both general and vascular surgery and has cared for countless patients and their families, including my own, over the years,” Corso said.
Corso also said it was Maitra’s vision to develop a dedicated Wound Care Center for the people of central Pennsylvania.
“I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him and others to help develop what would become the area’s first wound care center in the mid- to late ’90s. This service, and Dr. Maitra, have helped thousands of patients over the last 25-plus years,” Corso said.
Those who worked directly with Maitra also speak highly of him.
“He was one of the best surgeons. He was always on the go, doing surgeries until the wee hours of the morning. I worked with him at Bon Secours Critical Care and in the cardiac cath lab doing AAA repair. He always had a moment if you needed something patient-related or not. Will miss him,” Terra George said in a Facebook post.
“What an excellent surgeon and person he is. This community will miss his expertise and his caring devotion to his patients. As a nurse who worked with him at Bon Secours, I referred many patients to him,” Mary Jo Kleinosky said in a Facebook post.
Tyra Mastalski Swope called Maitra an “amazing” surgeon.
“His devotion to his patients and profession is nothing less than inspiring. The hours he put in along with the standard he held for himself, and the staff caring for his patients is something all health care providers should strive for,” Swope said in a Facebook post.
Maitra said he hopes he is remembered for the care he provided to his patients.
“I hope I have helped a lot of patients. It was an honor … taking care of them, and the trust they have given to me. The trust is the patient’s gift to you. They are giving you the chance to help them,” Maitra said.
“His motto was patients always come first,” Maitra’s wife, Linda, said. “The patient always came first.”
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.
The Maitra file:
Name: Dr. Subhashis Maitra
Position: Recently retired as vascular surgery specialist
Education: Graduate of North Plainfield (N.J.) High School, Rutgers University and UMDNJ-Rutgers Medical School. Completed residency at Hahnemann University Hospital
Family: Wife, Linda
Quote: “Always do the best you can to help the patient because they depend on you. Patients would come in with no hope. I would do everything I could to save that limb, even if others had given them no hope.”