This book comprises Dr Barney Berriss memoirs.
Dr Berris played an important part in developing academic medicine
in Canada. He was born and raised in Toronto, where he acquired
his undergraduate medical education and training. The early part
of the book tells the story of his childhood and youth, his family
connections, and his experiences as a student in Torontos
public school system.
Dr Berris then describes how he became a medical doctor. This will
be of great interest to all in the profession of medicine. For those
of us who have been part of the University of Toronto Faculty of
Medicine, his comments about some of the great teachers at that
institution are most pertinent. The best teachers in the Toronto
system were renowned in many countries. Two of the most appreciated
professors were Dr JCB Grant, whose textbook, A Method of Anatomy,
was used far and wide and Grants brother-in-law, William Boyd,
who taught pathology. Several of his textbooks were also used by
many faculties of medicine around the world. Dr Berris was also
most impressed with Dr KJR Wightman, who taught therapeutics, and
whose name was linked with Dr Berris in later years, when 1 of the
4 academies of the medical school was named the Wightman-Berris
Dr Berris is Jewish. When he graduated from the School of Medicine,
he was a very successful student who ranked high in the large class
of graduating students. To his great surprise, he was not selected
to intern at the Toronto General Hospital, nor at the Toronto Western
Hospital. In fact, his student record was much better than the record
of others who were chosen. Dr Berris, whose story is not mired down
by resentfulness, tells how the anti-Semitism in the community at
large was equally pervasive in the medical school at that time.
As a result, he was accepted to intern at St Josephs Hospital,
where he attained more experience working in a nonteaching hospital.
After completing his internship, he experienced another disappointment:
he was not accepted for specialty training. Once again, however,
it worked out well. He attended the University of Minnesota and
had an excellent experience. As well, the Chairman of the department
where he worked at the University of Minnesota was on very friendly
terms with Dr Ray Farquharson, Chairman of the Department of Medicine
at the Toronto General Hospital. When Dr Berris returned to Toronto,
he was not given a staff position but was asked to take 1 more years
training. He arranged for this, and in 1951 he became the first
Jewish doctor appointed to the full-time staff of the Department
of Medicine, University of Toronto. In many ways, Barney Berris
was a person who, for reasons of timing and talent, led the way
to a much more open and democratic system in Canadian medicine.
Dr Berris was chosen for the position of physician-in-chief at
Mount Sinai Hospital. He spent 13 years in that post while it was
developing into an important hospital in the University of Toronto
network. His contributions were great as an outstanding clinician,
researcher, and teacher. How he describes some of his experiences
with patients, students, and residents makes heartwarming reading
to anyone with any connection to academic medicine. Dr Berris, in
his later years, was a highly appreciated person and role model.
He also worked in positions outside the hospital, where he influenced
his profession further.
He describes his 1-year sabbatical and the pleasure and stimulation
of being invited to work with important medical contributors in
places far away from Toronto.
Barney Berris was, to use his words, a witness to change.
Many of those changes happened because of his style and his attitudes,
which were well displayed during the course of his career. His book,
Medicine: My Story, will interest anyone with any connection to
the profession of medicine. As a highly gifted, very honest, well-written,
and well-spoken leader in academic medicine, he has written this
bookone which his colleagues will find heartwarming, intelligent,
and of great interest. Those in Toronto who are his contemporaries
will benefit a great deal from reading it. In addition, a much wider
audience will be moved by his humility, the quality of his work,
and the comments he makes about the present and future direction
of medicine and our world.