first met Bob almost 40 years ago when I was a 1st year medical student at BU. This was part of a program to expose students to clinical medicine earlier in their studies than had been previously done. His love of medicine and teaching quickly became evident to me. His dynamic style of teaching made the basic sciences I was learning in the classroom come alive, and gave me a rationale for learning all these boring facts. He was tantamount in keeping me going through the grind of the 1st 2 years of medical school. Despite days which were usually considerably longer than 12 hours, the time flew by when I was with him, and I greatly anticipated my next experience. His enthusiasm and stamina was matchless. Believe it or not, it was hard for someone 35 years his junior to keep up with his pace. It was obvious that no matter what the setting, be it hospital, medical office, health center or medical school, he was loved and admired by all who came in contact with him. His opinions were widely sought after.
I managed to take a rotation with him during each of my subsequent student years, and as my knowledge increased so did my respect for his vast knowledge. He was a superb clinician, and taught me how to make a diagnosis from listening to and examining the patient. Believe me, in this world of CT’s and MRI’s that’s a lost art. This didn’t mean, however, that he wasn’t always reading and keeping up with the cutting edge of medicine. He was honored by many of the leading specialists in Boston, by being asked to be their personal and family’s physician. Not a day went by in the office where at least one of his patients wouldn’t bring him a little gift to thank him for his caring. In his indomitable way he served as a role model to his students, showing us how a Family Physician could practice quality and compassionate medicine. His untiring work kept the spirit of Family Practice alive at BU, until he could help establish a department at the medical school years later. Believe me, that was not an easy task at a school noted for its penchant for superspecialists.
On a more personal side, he took me, as well as numerous other medical students and spouses, under his wing, acting as a surrogate parent. I fondly remember numerous raucous dinners at his home discussing wide ranging, non-medical topics. He had strong opinions on many subjects, all of which were well researched and reasoned out. I learned a lot about wine, boating, collecting memorabilia, and tying a bowtie. In this way, I found out that he was a phenomenally well rounded individual, as well as a superb physician.
I had many an occasion to talk personally with Bob, and though he may not have told the people in his life, as we busy fathers are wont not to do, he was extremely proud of his children and their accomplishments. He was obviously a great role model as they have all become wonderful individuals, quite noted in their fields. In later years this pride has extended to his grandchildren, whom he constantly bragged about, especially over the last few years. He was blessed to have had 2 wonderful spouses. He often told me how appreciative he was of this fact and how he was so well cared for by them.
In conclusion, it goes without saying that he has positively touched the lives of thousands of people. He gave of himself to his patients, his students, his family, his country and the Boston medical community and universities, WITHOUT asking for anything in return. He was a man that couldn’t say “no” to a request for help. Even during the time of his failing health, he still gave of himself to others. This is the true measure of the greatness of this man. Though “mere” Family Physicians rarely get the credit they deserve, I feel he did more for medicine than anyone I know. I certainly am a better person and physician for having known him. I don’t need to say that he will truly be missed.
Arnold Berman, MD
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