Victor M Bernhard obituary

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On 21 July 2020, Dr Victor M Bernhard, 93, died at his home in Port Charlotte, Florida, attended by his wife and members of his immediate family. 

Dr Bernhard was born in 1927 and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the eldest of three children of Dr Louis and Charlotte Bernhard. His father was a highly respected family practitioner who committed his life’s work to serving his patients with care and compassion.

Victor admired his father’s sense of purpose in the practice of medicine. After obtaining his BS degree in 1946 from Northwestern University, he followed in his father’s footsteps and received his MD degree from Northwestern in 1950. He continued with his internship and residency training in General Surgery at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. After completion of his residency he returned to Milwaukee to join his father’s small multispecialty clinic. He also joined the clinical staff of the Medical College of Wisconsin. By the early 1960’s his focus shifted to academic medicine which led to a vascular surgery fellowship with Dr Michael DeBakey in 1964–65 at Baylor University Medical School in Houston, Texas.

After completion of this fellowship, he joined the faculty of the Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) as a professor of Surgery and the first chief of Vascular Surgery, developing an active research programme and one of the first vascular surgery fellowship programmes. Subsequently, he was recruited to become vice chairman of Surgery at Albert Einstein Medical Center and Temple University (Philadelphia), and ultimately became chief of Vascular Surgery at the University of Arizona Medical School (Tucson). Upon retiring from that position in 1996, Bernhard accepted the responsibility as vice president of Medical Affairs at Endovascular Technology, where he was instrumental in the development of one of the first abdominal aortic stent grafts. He rounded out his career as an Emeritus Lecturer at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Victor Bernhard will be remembered for his significant contributions to the specialty of vascular surgery, for his teaching and mentoring of residents, and collegial relationships in research and industry, as well as his pioneering in stent medical device development.

Dr Bernhard was an avid traveller and adventurer. He and his wife, Suzan, travelled the globe from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, visiting all seven continents during their 49-year marriage. He also relished flying his plane and sailing his boat. He was a devoted husband to Suzan, a loving father to Debbie, David, Todd, and Jon, and a doting grandfather to David, Joseph, Abraham, Benjamin, Austin, Taylor, Jacob, and Mackenzie.  Besides his wife, children, and grandchildren, Bernhard is survived by his brother Gerson Bernhard of San Francisco, sister Naomi Levinson of Palo Alto, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Victor is fondly remembered by many faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and maintained a close relationship with the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery. His yearly visits to the Towne Visiting Professorship were a highlight of the year for the faculty and trainees, and his continued avid reading made him a valued contributor to the educational endeavours around that programme.

If desired, contributions in his memory may be made to Tidewell Hospice, 5955 Rand Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34238; Medical College of Wisconsin, PO Box 26509, Milwaukee, WI 53226; the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University 420 E Superior St Chicago, Ill 60611; or to a charity of your choice.

This obituary was co-written by Peter J Rossi, chief of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, USA, and Dr Bernhard’s wife, Suzan.


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