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1936 - 2017


Dr. Thomas Van Cleave Berne passed away peacefully on Friday, October 27, 2017, at the age of 81. He was in good health until the end. Dr. Berne was born on April 8, 1936, in Los Angeles, California, to Esther Van Cleave Berne, Ph.D., and Clarence J. Berne, M.D. His father was Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Southern California (USC) for 28 years. Dr. Berne met his wife Cynthia in high school, proposed on the bank of the Seine in Paris, and they were happily married for 60 years.

Like his father, Dr. Berne dedicated his life to surgery: teaching, patient care, and research. He graduated from USC Medical School in 1960 and then completed his surgical residency at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center (LAC/USCMC). He served as a Fellow in renal transplantation at Guys Hospital in London from 1966 to 1967. Upon his return, Dr. Berne established a renal transplant program and performed the first kidney transplant operation at LAC/USCMC. In an interesting parallel, his father performed the first surgery at the old L.A. County hospital in 1932 and Dr. Berne performed the first surgery in the new LAC+USC facility in 2008.

Dr. Berne joined the faculty of USC in 1967, rising to the rank of tenured Professor, and was instrumental in establishing the LAC/USCMC Level 1 Trauma Center. He served on the staff of not only LAC/USCMC but also Good Samaritan Hospital and the USC Norris Cancer and University Hospitals. He served as president of several surgical societies, including the Pacific Coast Surgical and Western Surgical Associations, and published more than 220 peer review scientific publications, and hundreds of book chapters . Through his mentorship, Dr. Berne inspired doctors now working throughout the world. In his honor, The USC Department of Surgery established the “Berne Visiting Professorship”.

Colleague Dr. Nathalie Johnson describes his legacy thus: “When I think of Dr. Berne, I have this vision of drops in a pond and the ripples that go out from that because those that he touched have … done amazing things and are helping people and are changing medicine…. So those ripples go on forever and they’re far-reaching, not only in this country but truly around the world.”

With Cynthia, Dr. Berne loved traveling and visiting friends all around the world. He also enjoyed scuba diving, skiing, and USC football. Dr. Berne (W6TAG) was a ham radio operator from the time he was a teenager, sharing that passion with his children, grandchildren, and friends. His interest in ham radio and public health and safety led him to coordinate disaster preparedness activities in Silver Lake and Royal Oaks.

Tom will be fondly remembered for his kindness, generosity of spirit, and love for his family and friends.

Vaughn A. Starnes, M.D.
Demetrios Demetriades, M.D., Ph.D.