John P. Cossa, 83, of Downingtown, a longtime surgeon in Philadelphia, died of cancer Thursday, Dec. 8, at Paoli Hospital.

For 40 years until his retirement in 2000, Dr. Cossa was a general surgeon who practiced from offices at 1907 S. Broad St.

"He was the kind of doctor that is known for having a wonderful bedside manner," said son John Jr. "He was a gentleman and a gentle man who cared about his patients."

Born in Exeter, Luzerne County, Pa., he was the son of Gene and Teresa Bell Cossa.

In 1950, Dr. Cossa graduated from Wyoming Seminary Preparatory School in Kingston, Pa. He went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in 1954 from Muhlenberg College, Allentown.

In June 1958, he received his medical degree from Hahnemann University Hospital. He also served his internship there, and was assistant and then chief resident in general surgery.

Dr. Cossa was certified by the American Board of Surgery by Examination, his son said.

Over the span of his career, Dr. Cossa had academic appointments at Hahnemann: instructor in surgery, assistant and then associate professor of surgery, clinical professor of surgery, and associate dean for medical education.

When he opened his practice, it was as general surgeon at St. Agnes Hospital in South Philadelphia. St. Agnes is affiliated with Hahnemann.

He remained at St. Agnes until 1988. While there, he was variously director of surgical education, quality assurance, risk management, and nutritional support. He was named vice president of medical affairs.

From 1993 to 2000, Dr. Cossa was senior vice president of medical affairs for Virtua Health System, formerly West Jersey Health System.

He also served in leadership roles with medical societies based in the Garden State.

Dr. Cossa was a member of numerous medical and scientific societies, including the Philadelphia College of Physicians, Philadelphia Academy of Surgery, Samuel Hahnemann Surgical Society, and the Metropolitan Philadelphia Chapter of the American College of Surgeons.

He was appointed to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, and served with the American Society of Health Care Risk Management.

He also testified as an expert witness for the defense in cases involving alleged malpractice by other physicians. "He did a lot of that," his son said. "He was coveted by several firms for his legal expertise in malpractice."

Dr. Cossa was a member of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Chester Springs.

He enjoyed spending time with family, playing tennis, vacationing in Avalon, N.J., watching football, and crafting keepsakes in his woodworking shop.

Dr. Cossa was a great storyteller; he told his tales with exquisite detail in a soft voice. "People still come up to me on the street today and say, 'I loved to listen to his stories,' " his son said.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 58 years, Arlene Melinchock Cossa; children Caryl Hanna, Corene Rossi, and Carla Mann; eight grandchildren; and a sister.

A visitation from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, will be followed by a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, Fellowship Road and Pottstown Pike, Chester Springs. Entombment is at Philadelphia Memorial Park-Frazer.

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