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HL20: George Berci, MD—Seeing a Better Way

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2011

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of George Berci, MD.

This profile was published in the December, 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

 "I thought it would be nice to be able to put something in there that would let you could see and remove the stones."

In the late 1950s, Hungarian George Berci, MD, was in Melbourne, Australia, on a Rockefeller Fellowship, vexed with a major problem in gall bladder procedures. Surgeons could not see inside the common bile duct well enough to remove the stones.

"The stones were overlooked, and approximately 12% of patients had to undergo another procedure to remove them," he recalls. "I thought it would be nice to insert something in the duct that would let you remove the stones under visual control."

Berci sought help from a London physicist and they developed a rod-lens system that vastly improved the visual field for this procedure, and according to a paper in the journal Surgical Endoscopy, "transformed the quality of endoscopic instrumentation for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in many specialties."

"The great advantage was the optic was much brighter, enlarged image. The light was much brighter. And the optic had much greater quality of the image regarding sharpness and viewing angle," he says.

That was just one of many technical advances Berci has brought to the field of instrumentation in laparoscopy and several other endoscopy procedures during his career. 

Over the decades, he has continually found ways to improve illumination of the endoscope, enhancing the clarity of what could be seen by applying a high-intensity, miniature xenon arc globe, a strategy that had been in use by the military.

He helped develop ways to televise surgeries so that physicians were better able to teach medical students how to perform procedures. "We developed the first miniature endoscopic TV camera in 1962." First black and white followed by color with better resolution. "This was a great step," he says, “because you obtain a magnified image instead of observing it through a small eye piece.”

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