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Constantin Cope, 89, early leader in interventional radiology

Constantin Cope, 89, formerly of Elkins Park, a trailblazer in the field of interventional radiology, died Sunday, Nov. 6, of heart failure at Spring Village at Floral Vale, Yardley.

Constantin Cope, 89, formerly of Elkins Park, a trailblazer in the field of interventional radiology, died Sunday, Nov. 6, of heart failure at Spring Village at Floral Vale, Yardley.

Dr. Cope led a fascinating life, his family said. Although trained as an internist, not a radiologist, he advanced the field of interventional radiology by inventing many types of catheters used in diagnostic and treatment procedures.

His route into radiology, he told the Interventional News in 2004, started in the early 1950s when he became involved in selective catheter angiography when few were doing it.

"As a medical resident in 1956, I knew of no accurate way to make a diagnosis of cancer of the pancreas, or pulmonary embolus," he told the medical publication. "When I started concentrating on these two conditions, I thought that the vascular route might be the best way to make a diagnosis."

Dr. Cope was self-taught, he told the magazine. "Since no specialized catheters and guide wires were available in the States, I had to make my own gadgets for selective catheterization of major arteries and veins."

Dr. Cope had the chance to see the devices in use when he joined a 1958 government-sponsored multi-institutional cancer chemotherapy program in Memphis.

"I am, of course, a gadgeteer," Dr. Cope told Interventional News. "When a medical gadget gets widespread approval and is of clinical use, I think that is the best reward one can receive for one's work."

He was born in Paris to Esther Mandelbaum and Aaron Kope, whose original surname was Kopelowicz. Later, Aaron Kope decided to change the name to Cope.

Dr. Cope's only sibling, Pierre, died of Down syndrome at age 5. The family moved to England, where Dr. Cope was educated during the London Blitz of World War II.

He earned a bachelor of science from London University and a master of business and science degree from Middlesex Hospital Medical School before leaving England for America, where he earned a medical degree from New York Medical College.

Shortly after becoming a U.S. citizen, Dr. Cope was drafted into the Army as a medical officer during the last years of the Korean War.

When the war ended, he returned to New York to serve medical internships. He met and married Mary Grace Heller. He went on to complete his training as an internist at Memphis VA Medical Center, which was associated with Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis.

In 1963, he was hired as an attending physician at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. He was given the opportunity to develop and expand the new field of interventional radiology, his family said.

He needed someone to manufacture his inventions. During a medical convention, he met William Cook, who was manufacturing wire guides, needles, and catheters out of his apartment in Indiana.

"From a handshake agreement, Constantin was able to manufacture his first catheter invention and began a lifelong friendship," his family said. Cook's company became a major producer of medical devices.

Initially, Einstein doctors viewed the devices with suspicion. But he offered one of them to solve a tricky problem during a heart surgery, and from that day on, doctors welcomed his collaboration, his family said.

In 1986, Dr. Cope transferred to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In February 2004, he retired as a professor emeritus from HUP's radiology department.

He was awarded the Society of Interventional Radiology's Gold Medal, with William Cook, in 1999; New York Medical College Alumni Gold Medal in 2001; and the society's Leaders in Innovation Award in 2004.

The Copes lived in Philadelphia and then Elkins Park. They had five children. In 2004, they retired to Bend, Ore., to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Dr. Cope also enjoyed playing the violin, tennis, hiking, biking, travel, classical music, and spending time with his family and dog Peris Cope.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Grace Heller Cope; sons Leonard, Daniel, and James; daughters Evelyn Stainthorpe and M. Constance Cope Franckle; 10 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

A celebration of life will be from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 27, at Cheltenham Center for the Arts, 439 Ashbourne Rd. Dr. Cope donated his body to science.

Donations may be made to Penn Medicine via