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Doctor Who Performed First Liver Transplant at Cleveland Clinic dies at 93.
Dr. Robert E. Hermann, beloved husband of Pauline Fisher Hermann (nee Dreher), the late Barbara (nee Bower) and former husband of Chris (nee Hall); father of Robert E. Hermann Jr. (Deborah) of Shaker Heights, OH, the late Barry C. Hermann of Shaker Heights, OH, Robert Fisher (Donna) of Naples, FL, Sarah Fisher (Lisa) of White Plains, NY and Montague Hermann (Sasithon) of New York, NY.; grandfather of Nicholas Fisher (Kali), Sean Patton Fisher (Nicole), Elizabeth Califf (James), Abbie Bandak (Samer), Charles E. Hermann (Lillie), Katherine R. Hermann and Lily “Finn” Fisher-DellaCorte. He is also survived by 3 great grandchildren, Marley Fisher, Leo Fisher and William Califf.
Dr. Hermann was born to Erna Pabst Hermann and Dr. Ewald Hermann in Highland, Illinois in 1929, in a Swiss-German community of 4,000. Despite being born into the Great Depression, his childhood was fortunately idyllic—exploring the neighborhood with his two dogs, Cuppy and Jack, riding bikes with his younger brother Dick (Richard), and spending sweltering summers at the family’s summer cottage in Walloon Lake, Michigan—the inspiration behind Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories.
His childhood eventually led into his time at Harvard University, founding and playing trumpet in Harvard’s first big band “The Harvardians,” which held the honor of the first student band to perform for the Hasty Pudding Show. During his junior year, Dr. Hermann met who would become his first wife, Barbara Bower, a student at Wellesley. Between evenings spent hanging out with the clarinetist, Bob Wilber, at Club Savoy in Boston, the successful touring schedule of the Harvardians, and dating Barbara, Dr. Hermann ultimately graduated cum laude in 1950. Although he fainted upon seeing his father first perform surgery in Highland, he ultimately decided a career in medicine was to be his future over music, graduating from Washington University School of Medicine in 1954.
Following medical school, Dr. Hermann started his internship in surgery at University Hospitals of Cleveland in 1954, which was briefly interrupted by military service, serving from 1956-1957 as a Captain in the US Army Medical Corps in Worms, Germany, followed by a year at the US Army Hospital in Munich, Germany in 1957-1958. Following his stint in the Army, Dr. Hermann returned to Cleveland and completed his residency in General Surgery at University Hospitals in 1961. He was then hired as the Crile, Bunts, and Lower Fellow in Surgery at the Western Reserve University School of Medicine following his residency and in 1962, Dr. Hermann joined the Cleveland Clinic as one of only 96 physicians and research scientists on staff. During his long tenure at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Hermann established himself as one of the most respected and admired surgeons of his generation. In 1969, he was appointed as Chairman of the Department of General Surgery, following the tenure of his mentor, Dr. George Crile Jr., and held the position for 23 years until 1992. During his time at the Clinic, he conducted the first liver transplant, the first successful liver resection, the first successful portal vein aneurysm surgery, launched the Clinic’s successful liver transplant program, proudly oversaw the residency training of over 600 surgeons, who now practice all over the world, served as a Clinical Professor at Case Western Reserve University, and grew the Department of General Surgery into one of the most respected surgical teams in the United States. He even found time to play as part of the Cleveland Clinic Band “The Arrhythmias.”
Throughout his career, Dr. Hermann published over 200 articles, 53 textbook chapters, and three books; he has served on the editorial board of four medical journals; invited to over 200 major lectures and visiting professorships in over 30 countries. Dr. Hermann served as a Director of the American Board of Surgery, member of the Residency Review Committee for Surgery, and a founder and President of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery. He held membership in numerous societies and has been President of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, Eastern Surgical Society, and the Cleveland Surgical Society. He was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American College of Surgeons and the first Vice-President of the College. He was appointed to the Board of Commissioners for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). He held honorary Memberships in 14 surgical societies, including the International Society of Surgery, International College of Surgeons, the German Surgical Society, and the Sociedad Colombiana de Cirugia. He was awarded countless honors, including the Roswell Park Gold Medal in 1993, the American College of Surgeons Distinguished Service Award in 1994, the Golden Achievement Award in Medicine in 1994, and the Alumni Achievement Award from Washington University School of Medicine in 1999.
Aside from his professional accolades, Dr. Hermann lived a full and admirable personal life. In 1986, he met the woman with whom he would spend the rest of his life, Polly, enjoying 36 years of blissful marriage. They enjoyed the vastness of the human experience—from visiting the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia to rural Tanzania; bareboat sailing trips from the French West Indies to Bora Bora to Tonga; shredding powder from Colorado to Switzerland; countless rounds of golf and “good shot!” tennis; and many summers spent at his childhood summer cottage on Walloon Lake, hosting family and friends. He was loved far and wide and was known for his humility, grace, and generosity—a true renaissance man.
The family would like to thank Bernatte Brown and Laticia McCray for their wonderful help in caring for Dr. Hermann.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or to the The Robert E. Hermann, MD Award to support research and education of residents and fellows in the Department of General Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, PO Box 931517, Cleveland, OH 44193.
A family interment and services will be held privately. A celebration of life for friends and family will be held at a later date.
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