Dr. Randy Capone: 'Can't Say Enough Good Things'
Notes start to run together from the countless interviews conducted on behalf of the late Co-Director, of the Greater Baltimore Cleft Lip & Palate Team at GBMC, Dr. Randy Capone, who died late December 2018, because everyone captures him in the same way – they can't say enough good things.
Dr. Capone changed many families' lives through his work in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and especially children through the Cleft Lip & Palate team. But Dr. Capone's presence left an indelible mark that went well beyond physical appearance.
Patrick Byrne, MD, Professor and the Director of The Johns Hopkins Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, co-founded the Greater Baltimore Cleft Lip & Palate Team at GBMC with Dr. Capone and Dr. Tonie Kline, Director of Pediatric Genetics at GBMC, in 2004 after he and Dr. Capone met during their residencies at Hopkins.
"I would often joke with him that I’m the invisible one because everybody’s so excited to see Randy," he said. "'I’m just chopped liver over here.' I’m the wingman for Randy Capone. I saw a kid recently that he cared for over the years and she wears a special dress for him every time she comes in. Everybody felt that way because it was obvious he really cared."
Following his residency at Hopkins, Dr. Capone traveled to the UC Davis Medical Center for a one-year fellowship in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery where he received training in cleft lip and palate surgery. From the beginning, he knew he wanted that clinical specialty to play a large role in his career.
Upon returning from California, Dr. Capone and Dr. Byrne looked to the busiest labor and delivery hospital in the area – GBMC as the place to establish their team. They approached GBMC's Chairman of Pediatrics, Tim Doran, MD, about the idea and, as it turned out, Dr. Kline had also expressed interest in beginning a cleft team at GBMC.
Once Dr. Capone, Dr. Kline and Dr. Byrne were connected, the Cleft Lip & Palate Team at GBMC was off and running. Dr. Kline, now Medical Director for the Cleft Team, said, "He was always enthusiastic and had good ideas and he would meet my ideas. He was just a very positive person. I don’t think I ever heard him say, 'bad idea' or 'no, we can't do that' or anything negative."
John F. Caccamese, Jr, MD, DMD, Professor of Oral-Maxillofacial Surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center was still in his fellowship when the team started but shared an interest and training in cleft and pediatrics. He called Dr. Byrne without having met him before. Over a meal, he became a partner on the team and has been for 15 years. Both Dr. Caccamese and Dr. Byrne remain co-directors of the Cleft Lip & Palate Team today.
"We don’t bill for those outpatient visits," Dr. Caccamese said. "We give up our time and come and take care of those kids because that’s what we like to do. Dr. Capone is kind of a rare bird in that way. Most of this kind of care is centered around academic centers where people have protected time to do these types of things and he was certainly giving of his own time to make this a part of his life which always struck me as a pretty great thing."
Kevin McGurn was one of the first patients treated by the Cleft Lip & Palate team, and the family was so grateful for the care he received that they spoke at GBMC's Annual Donor Recognition Dinner in 2014.
"We met Dr. Capone the day after Kevin was born and he immediately put us at ease," Kevin's mom, Jen, wrote in a note to the Cleft Lip & Palate team recently. "He was wonderful with us and it was so heartwarming to watch the relationship between he and Kevin grow over the years.
"Two years ago, Kevin had a school project where he had to write about a hero and invite that hero to school. Kevin’s first choice was Dr. Capone.
"We did attend the service and Kevin was moved to learn Dr. Capone played the trombone. Kevin has been playing trombone for the past five years. Without the treatment Kevin received from Dr. Capone and Dr. Byrne, this would never have been possible."
"His pediatric patients really adored him," Dr. Kline said. "Kevin just idolized Randy. The interaction Kevin and Randy had was so charming. It was always like that. Besides the kids, he had a great relationship with the families. They trusted him and admired him."
"When you take care of these kids you have to take the mindset that they’re all yours," Dr. Caccamese said. "There’s a huge burden of care on these families with all the visits and all the surgeries they may need. It’s easy to get wrapped up in that mission and wanting to make their lives as easy for them as you can. Randy was a perfect example of somebody who committed himself to that process."
Beyond the scope of children in the cleft lip & palate space, Dr. Capone used his position as a facial plastic surgeon to help others in need as well. When a woman in her early 20s presented to GBMC's Sexual Assault Forensic Examination program severely abused after being chained to a radiator in a Towson apartment for two months, he fixed her broken cheekbone and reconstructed her entire upper lip, even though she had no health insurance.
And his work wasn't restricted to Baltimore. Dr. Capone took multiple trips to Mexico and Nicaragua to volunteer his surgical services.
"He and I did a mission trip together about 10 years ago to Nicaragua and that will remain one of my fondest memories of any type and certainly with him," Dr. Byrne said. "He was amazing in that setting and again so gracious with the staff and the families and everybody we worked with. That was a really special memory."
As dedicated as Dr. Capone was to his career and helping families, his own was also always top of mind. Every person noted he was a "great family man" to wife, Marisa, and sons, Enzo and Leo.
"Randy never put himself front and center of anything. He was very humble, despite being exceedingly talented and smart. He’s a terrific surgeon and gifted in many ways but he never put himself first. He always thought of others," Dr. Byrne said. "He lived his faith. He didn’t talk about it a lot, but I believe that was a big influence on him. I just can’t say enough good things about him. There’s not too many people you meet in life that you can unequivocally say you can’t imagine they have any enemies or even say anything bad about him. He was universally loved. A pretty rare person."