Untitled Page

Mending Hearts and Building Bridges

Bernard Goldman
Bernard Goldman

When Bill Bigelow introduced Bernie Goldman to leaders of cardiovascular surgery such as Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley in the 1960s, he communicated a sense of the dynamic momentum of the specialty and a sense of history in the making. Bernie had been fascinated by cardio-pulmonary physiology as a medical student - he considered internal medicine or surgery as a career choice. After a rotation in California on a surgical service, he chose surgery, based on its pace and the opportunity it offered to fix the pathology he had been studying.

Toronto Surgical Chair Fred Kergin directed him into cardiac surgery. His significant mentors were Bigelow, Bill Mustard, Bruce Tovee, Griff Pearson and David Bohnen. They ensured that he travelled with the McLaughlin Fellowship, studying with Ronald Belsey in Bristol, England, and with Gerry Austen and Mort Buckley at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Bigelow also sent him to Cleveland, Palo Alto and Houston to bring new techniques back to Toronto. On his return, Bernie worked with Al Trimble to introduce coronary artery bypass.

In addition, he practiced vascular surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital. At that time, vascular surgery was an important part of cardiovascular surgical practice, including peripheral, aortic, carotid and portacaval surgery. He also introduced support of the failing heart with the intra-aortic balloon pump, a technique he had learned in Boston.

During his years at Toronto General Hospital he was supported and encouraged by Ron Baird. He enjoyed these years with partners Richard Weisel, Tirone David and Hugh Scully.

He followed the teaching techniques of Bruce Tovee, Griff Pearson and Bill Mustard - partnering with residents in the OR and ward. Their influence led Bernie to become a devoted teacher and colleague of his residents. He contributed to the training of most of the cardiac surgeons in Toronto and throughout the entire country. In addition, he trained ten cardiac surgeons currently practising in Israel. Like Norman Shumway, Mustard and Tovee, Bernie was a master first assistant who could develop the skills and confidence of his surgical residents from the opposite side of the table. He received the Tovee Award for Post Graduate teaching and many other accolades from former residents.

The deluge of coronary surgery in the 1970s overwhelmed the available facilities at Toronto General and St. Michael's Hospital. After 20 years at Toronto General, Bernie was asked to set up a cardiac service at Sunnybrook. University chairman Bernie Langer made sure that the new service at Sunnybrook would not be limited to the role of a coronary mill, but would take on all cardiovascular cases and train

residents. The early success and remarkably low mortality established the Sunnybrook centre in the constellation of the University of Toronto's cardiac surgery program. The leaders of the institution at that time, Martin Barkin, Marvin Tile and Al Harrison helped to assure success. They set a "can do and must do" tone, developing a sense of pride in the institution as a complete academic centre which had been evolving from a Veterans' Hospital into a Trauma Centre.

The Sunnybrook surgeons, particularly Bernie, George Christakis and Steve Fremes developed a reputation as excellent teachers. Eventually, Bernie was asked to serve as chief of surgery at Sunnybrook. He encouraged orthopedics and neurosurgery to work together as a spinal surgery team and helped Fred Brenneman, then training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, to establish and lead a world class trauma service at Sunnybrook. Bernie continued operating until age 70. He continued writing, editing, educational and other activities. He had a special interest in training surgeons and cardiologists to insert pacemakers and defibrillators correctly. As he began to withdraw from major operative surgery, he wrote insightfully about retirement. His thoughts on this subject were captured in an earlier issue of the Spotlight. (Musings by Bernard Goldman - The Surgical Spotlight,Winter 2004-2005: 5-6, University of Toronto)

Bernie took on the responsibility of editing the Journal of Cardiac Surgery, raising its citation index and circulation significantly. With funding support from Medtronic Inc, he and his co-editor, Susan Belanger from the Department of History of Medicine, published a very successful history of cardiac surgery in Canada, now in its second edition (Heart Surgery in Canada: Memoirs, Anecdotes, History and Perspective) He has supported philanthropic causes in Israel, including chairmanship of Save a Child's Heart, a program that provides cardiac surgical care at no cost to children from Africa, China, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. They have so far done 2400 operations in Israel on children from 33 countries; 50% of them are from neighbouring Arab countries. The theme of the organization is "mending hearts and building bridges". They recently celebrated the treatment of their 1000th Palestinian patient. Bernie went to the West Bank city of Nablus this past fall to see post-operative patients. His busy fund-raising efforts have been very generously helped by a grateful Toronto patient.

The Bernard S. Goldman Chair in Cardiac Surgery has recently been established and filled by his distinguished successor as chief of cardiac surgery at Sunnybrook, Steve Fremes. In celebration of Bernie's contributions to his country as well as his specialty he was recently designated a Member of the Order of Canada.

Bernie's wife Fran is a musician, choir master and linguist; his son, Richard, is an expert in banking law and computers in Boston; his daughter, Kathy, is a singer and songwriter, currently studying at both Harvard and Boston University; his youngest daughter, Sari, a social worker and new mother, lives in Toronto. Bernie currently chairs a Ministry of Health working group on standalone angioplasty centres and serves on a surgical panel at The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.


Skip Navigation Links