In Memoriam: Dr. Bernard Langer OC, MD, FRCSC

February 25, 2022

In Memoriam

Dr. Bernard Langer OC, MD, FRCSC

1932 – 2022

Dr. Bernard Langer died on Feb. 23, 2022 at the age of 89, leaving behind as part of his remarkable legacy, the Toronto HPB and Transplant Fellowships.

Professor Langer was an outstanding teacher and role model – the epitome of surgical expertise and the pursuit of academic excellence in research and education.

The Toronto HPB & Transplant Fellowships evolved from Bernie’s vision in the early 1980’s, of teaching the evolving subspecialty of liver & pancreas surgery. I was his Surgical Fellow at the Toronto General Hospital for 6 months in the fall of 1981 as I prepared for my Royal College Exams. During that brief time, he tried to teach me some of the nuances of portocaval shunts and liver resections, the Whipple operation, and complex biliary procedures, but it was following my return to a junior faculty position in 1984, that I really learned from him. By that time, the Liver Fellowship had become a more formal year-long period of training with weekly teaching rounds that Bernie ran and clear responsibilities and relationships with the Residents. In 1986, following the first liver transplants in Toronto that he had performed, he added transplantation to the skill set of the “Liver Fellows”.

By 1990, there were 2 Liver Fellows each year and a 2-year Fellowship was offered to those interested in additional research and/or transplant experience. In 1995, Bernie passed the Directorship to me and distinct (but integrated) training in transplantation and HPB evolved through accreditation of the Transplant Fellowship by the ASTS in 1993 and the HPB Fellowship by the AHPBA and Fellowship Council in 2010, by which time the Fellowships had grown to a combined 7 Fellows per year.

Bernie’s impact on the Fellowship continues to this day. As a gifted technical surgeon with exceptional clinical acumen who constantly strove for excellence, as a role model, he set a very high bar for the Fellows. But he was also a naturally gifted teacher. What I think made him so special, was that he actually taught the Fellow how to do the operation in the operating room – Bernie established the hands-on culture of the Toronto Fellowships that in part distinguishes them from many other programs where the Fellow learns predominantly from the privilege to scrub and assist the master surgeon. Bernie’s conduct of the weekly sit-down teaching rounds was always an exceptional and often humbling learning experience that was not-to-be-missed.

In 2002 Professor Langer was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2015 he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. For more details of his extraordinary career see: CAN J SURG April 01, 2015 58.

Dr. Langer is survived by his wife, Ryna, his children and their spouses, Jacob and Ferne, David and Theresa, Pearl and Bing Siang, and Michael and Corinna, his 14 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren

Bernie will be remembered by his patients for his exceptional expertise and clinical care; by his Surgical colleagues for his transformative leadership as Departmental Chair in establishing academic practice plans that supported the evolution of subspecialty care and basic and clinical research; by the profession for the high standards and quality initiatives he introduced at Cancer Care Ontario and as President of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Canada; and by the over 90 graduates of the HPB & Transplant Fellowships who continue as his legacy throughout the world.

Paul D. Greig, MD, FRCSC

Professor Emeritus of Surgery

University of Toronto

February 25, 2022