American Surgical Association Transactions

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1927 - 2017

W. GERALD RAINER, MD, 1927 - 2017

Dr. Gerald (Gerry) Rainer was born in Gordo, Alabama in 1927. He attended Emory University and received his medical degree from the University of Tennessee in 1948, at the age of 21 years. He interned at Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago where he met his wife, Lois Sayre; they married in 1950. He served in the Korean War as a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Corp and received the Bronze Star and the Combat Medical Corp medals. Following his military service, the Rainers moved to Denver in 1954 to begin his surgical residency under the leadership of Dr. Ben Eiseman, with whom he developed a life-long personal relationship. In 1959, he was the first to complete a cardiothoracic surgical fellowship at the University of Colorado.

Dr. Rainer established his cardiothoracic surgical practice at St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver where he worked for the next 50 years. Throughout that time, he was a leader of the Denver medical and civic communities and a true philanthropist. He served as president of the Denver and the Colorado Medical Societies as well as the Denver Academy of Surgery and the Colorado Trudeau Society and was elected to the Colorado Pulmonary Hall of Fame. He had a particular love of classical music and served on the Board of Trustees of the Colorado Symphony and was a leader of the philanthropic successes of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Botanical Gardens and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Dr. Rainer was engaged in surgical research and education throughout his career. He was a prolific writer and published his research in the scientific literature. As a clinical faculty member, Dr. Rainer was very involved with the University of Colorado School of Medicine by serving on many of its boards and committees and as an advisor to the Dean of the Medical School. He was a true friend and strong supporter of the Department of Surgery's academic and educational missions. He was honored with the rank of Distinguished Clinical Professor of Surgery in 1999.

Dr. Rainer was a nationally and internationally renowned surgeon. He was a founding member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the largest professional organization of cardiothoracic surgeons in the world, and served as its president in 1989-1991. Among his many other leadership positions, he served as the president of the American College of Chest Physicians in 1982-1983 and was a director on the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

Dr. Rainer died in Denver on November 14, 2017, the day after celebrating his 90th birthday with his family. His wife of 67 years, Lois, died in April, 2019. He is survived by his sister, five children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.