Carney mourns loss of beloved Doctor Carlos Carpena

Dr. Carlos Carpena, who died April 21 at the age of 67, will be remembered by his family, friends, patients, colleagues, and students, as a man of great compassion, expertise, and humility.

He was "caring, truly interested in his patients and their families," said Cornelius P. Bulman, Chief Operating Officer of Caritas Carney Hospital. Bulman had known him since Carpena was a resident at Carney in 1973.

Carpena, originally from Lima, Peru, came to the United States a few years after graduating from the San Marcos University Faculty of Medicine in 1966. After doing his residency in internal medicine, he went on to become chief medical resident at Carney. Since March, 1990, he had stayed in the endocrinology department, as the director. He also held a similar title at Quincy Medical Center, also beginning in 1990. In the late 1970s he also worked at Bowdoin Street Health Center, as medical director.

Lorraine Baccari, who has been Carpena's secretary at Carney since 1980, spoke of his commitment to the local community, especially the Spanish-speaking community.

"He did bring the Hispanic community to the Carney," Baccari said. His warm manner, and "love that exuded to his patients," Baccari said, would keep his waiting room filled with patients wanting to see him.

"He was a physician who really understood the importance of community medicine," said Bulman, who joined Carpena in building the Bowdoin Street Health Center in 1978.

Carpena, as well as being a doctor, taught as an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. He was also a Fellow of the American College of Clinical Endocrinology.

"He loved teaching," Julia Carpena, Carpena's wife, said. "It was a mission to him."

Baccari said that Carpena would have wanted to be remembered not only as a dedicated doctor but also a teacher, in and out of the classroom.

"He was a born teacher," Baccari said. "He was at his best in the lecture hall…he was comfortable in that role because he was helping them understand…endocrinology."

Outside of the lecture hall, colleagues sought his advice, Baccari said. "They came and asked his opinion for their patients."

Adela Margules, director of Bowdoin Street Health Center, had known Carpena since she was hired there in 1981.

"He was well liked, warm, and developed excellent relationships with his patients that enabled him to take care of their complicated needs and involve them in the decision about their care," Margules said.

His greatest contribution was the commitment to "outstanding patient care and his unique ability to charm everyone," she added.

Compassion paired with skill left those close to him remembering situations where he exceeded expectations. Mrs. Carpena remembers last summer her husband drove through a storm to see a severely sick patient of his. When this patient died, he made sure to attend her wake. This patient's grandson sent them a letter that summarizes how many of Carpena's patients felt about him. The grandson had written, Mrs. Carpena said, that her husband had been "not only… a doctor, but also a friend."

Carpena's dedication reflected in the amount of time he put into his job. "Time was never a factor when it came to caring for his patients, teaching the residents or supporting the hospital," said Bulman.

"He spent as much time as possible with everyone," he added.

His interest in medicine expanded across continents, Baccari said. Every summer he traveled back to his homeland of Peru for about three weeks to speak there, work at local hospitals, and fundraise.

Aside from medicine, Carpena loved to play tennis.

His passion was tennis," Julia Carpena said.

"He loved tennis," Margules agreed. "He and I would play… he always won!" she added.

He and Julia have two daughters, Natasha and Julia. Natasha and her husband Mark had a child, Carlos, a year ago in March. Named after his grandfather, Carlos was very special to Carpena. The "tight, loving family," that Carpena describes them as was all the more close when Carlos was born. "The baby probably lengthened his life," she noted.

Carpena was a member of several medical associations including the Massachusetts Medical Society, Peruvian Medical Society, as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Endocrinology and Diabetes and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Last November he was given the prestigious Norman A. Welch, M.D. Award that honors medical excellence at Carney's 22nd Annual Awards Dinner.

His career at Carney spanned over 30 years, first as a resident and finally as director of the department of his specialty, endocrinology. Dr. Carpena enjoyed living in the Boston area, Carpena said, where there is a wealth of knowledge in the medical field. Also, Carney had a special place in his heart. "He did everything at Carney and he liked to remain there," she said.

His impact at the Carney was shown through black ribbons worn by his colleagues for over a month after his death.

Dr. Carpena was "beloved by peers, students, [and] administration," said Baccari. "He was a treasure."