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Bernard Tabatznik

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Dr. Bernard Tabatznik, 89, a world-renowned cardiologist, died in a vehicle accident on Sunday, August 14, 2016 in Bath County, Virginia. Bernie, as he was affectionately known, is survived by his wife, Charline Tabatznik (née Edwards) of Monterey, Virginia, and his step-children Cassandra Wilson of Monterey, David Harmon, Sr., of Baltimore, Maryland, Kelly Behn and husband Jude of Durango, Colorado, and Kuethe Harmon of Bartonville, Texas. He is also survived by his former wife, Marjorie Tabatznik of Bradenton, Florida, and their son, Keith Tabatznik of Falls Church, Virginia, and daughter, Ilana Brett and husband David of Lincoln, Vermont. A son, Darron Tabatznik of Baltimore, predeceased him. He is survived by a sister Mary Lazarus of Johanessburg, South Africa and a sister-in-law Beth Tabatznik of London, England. His brother, David of London, predeceased him. He was the grandfather of Alycia Tabatznik, Turner Brett and Eliot Brett; step-grandfather of Jourdan Collins, David Harmon, Jr., Brooke Rent, Shawn Rent, Taylor Wilson, Cassidy Wilson, Kylie Behn and Lexi Behn; great grandfather of Ely Bass; and uncle to nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. Dr. Tabatznik was born on January 8, 1927 in Mir, Belarus. His parents immigrated to South Africa within five years to escape Soviet-era genocides. He graduated from the medical school at The University of Witswatersrand (affectionately, Wits, where he was known as "Bunny") in Johannesburg in 1949. He trained at the Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. After working in London hospitals in the 1950s, he returned to South in 1956. In 1959, Dr. Tabatznik chose to leave South Africa and the apartheid regime for the United States where he was appointed a Fellow in Medicine and later a Fellow in Cardiology at Johns Hopkins University. In 1961, he became Associate Physician in Chief at Baltimore's Sinai Hospital and the next year was appointed Chief of its Division of Cardiology. Dr. Tabatznik held assistant professorships in Pediatrics and Medicine at Johns Hopkins; was a principal investigator in more than 30 national research studies of cardioactive drugs and cardiac disorders; authored and coauthored many articles that appeared in major medical journals; was very active in the community, helping found the Save A Heart Foundation, a School of Echocardiography and the Physician Assistant program and certification. His positions allowed him to mentor numerous physicians during his 40 years of teaching and practice in Baltimore. Several of his proteges became Chiefs of Cardiology at their respective hospitals. Dr. Tabatznik was a key member of the team that developed the first Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), which has saved thousands of lives. He was the first to describe the extremely rare Heart-hand Syndrome Type II, now also known as Berk-Tabatznik Syndrome. In 1972 he was named Save a Heart Humanitarian of the Year. Dr. Tabatznik was a very active and distinguished Wits alumni. He worked diligently to establish the Phillip V. Tobias Chair in Paleoanthropology at the University's Evolutionary Sciences Institute. He and Professor Tobias were classmates and life-long friends. He organized and attended biannual reunions in the United States with Wits classmates and graduates until his death. He felt a strong bond and allegiance to his classmates, Wits alumni and South African colleagues. He was an enthusiastic sports fan-Baltimore Orioles (where he served as substitute team physician for many years), Roger Federer, Arsenal FC (English soccer) and South African rugby and cricket. He was an accomplished soccer player in his youth and rooted for Georgetown University teams where his son, Keith, coached for 22 years. In their retirement, he and his wife moved to Highland County, Virginia, where friends and neighbors knew him as a gentle, soft-spoken, kind and community-oriented man. He served on the Highland Medical Center's board during its formative years years and was instrumental in securing the federal grant that significantly expanded the Center's capabilities. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Garth Newel, a classical music facility In Warm Springs, Virginia, and served on its board for 4 years. He was a long-time substitute for Highland's weekly bridge group. He kept up an active correspondence and friendship with South African classmates and American medical colleagues. Dr. Tabatznik was an avid music lover with a good voice. He was often called upon at gatherings to perform traditional Yiddish and South African folk songs. (He was also known to call upon himself for such performances.) He was the gentlest of men, touching all he met with a kindness that was never forgotten. He saw everyone as a friend and wanted to know them well beyond a casual greeting. He radiated an extraordinary sweetness of spirit. Spend time with him, and your faith in humanity was restored and revitalized. Bernie was dedicated to medicine, music, classmates, bridge, "Jeopardy," sports and politics. He often said he "never had a bored minute in life." He lived life well and found great joy everywhere.
Published in Baltimore Sun on Sept. 2, 2016
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