HL20: George Berci, MD—Seeing a Better Way

Cheryl Clark, December 13, 2011

His innovations helped develop numerous surgical instruments, including cytoscopes, resectoscopes, and nephroscopes. Urologists in particular, he says, were able to perform surgeries much more safely with the resectoscope.

He was involved in development of a better instruments used in laparoscopy, for use in both adults and children. The instruments got smaller, and the optics got smaller, and Berci was involved in many improvements.

The son of the assistant conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Berci was headed, for a time, for a career in music. At age 4 his father insisted that he play the fiddle. "I played well as a kind of wonder child, until about age 11, and allegedly I could have been somebody," Berci jokes.

Perhaps Berci could look at the healing arts with a device builder’s eye because that's how he began his training, as a mechanical engineer.

Berci stopped performing surgery 20 years ago, but at age 90 continues as the senior director of the Endoscopic Research Laboratory at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he has worked since 1970. 

These days, Berci isn't relaxing with the benefits of a lifetime of discovery.

He goes in every day around 6:30 a.m., he says. "I run around the hospital," even sometimes taking the stairs to quickly get up and down the building's four floors to help active surgeons to observe new procedures, using new modern video endoscopes.

He's still at it, researching and writing, and he has several new projects. One is to find ways to improve method of intubating patients with difficult airway passages and another is to improve methods to make the field of microsurgical procedures easier and improve teaching.

"I also like to teach, and I'm very happy that I still can teach," he says.

This article appears in the December 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.


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