In his decades at Cedars-Sinai, Berci developed new visualization techniques, miniaturized instruments and high-definition cameras—critical advancements that revolutionized the field of minimally invasive surgery and continue to influence nearly every surgical specialty.
His passion for creating tools to improve the imaging and viewing capabilities of endoscopes has brought him to academic institutions around the world. Alongside his surgical work, Berci has produced dozens of books, scientific papers and teaching films. His latest book, published in 2019, is titled, The Scope of My Life, An Autobiography.
In 2011, Berci was awarded the Jacobson Innovation Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American College of Surgeons. He also has received an honorary doctorate from Semmelweis University in Budapest, with a building named in his honor. He is a founding member of the International Biliary Association and a past president of the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons, which created the SAGES George Berci Lifetime Achievement Award in Endoscopic Surgery.
"He is probably one of the greatest postgraduate educators that has ever been," said Edward Phillips, MD, executive vice chair of the Department of Surgery. "Whenever he sees a new technology, instrument, or develops one, his first thought is, 'How am I going to teach everyone?'"
Phillips and dozens of other colleagues, friends and former students lauded Berci during this week's Zoom birthday party that attracted well-wishers from across the U.S., Canada and Japan. Many appeared in a birthday tribute video, calling Berci a role model and noting his continued stamina and imagination.
"You are the kind of surgeon we should all aspire to be," Nicholas N. Nissen, MD, director of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery and surgical director of Liver Transplantation, said on the video.
While Berci no longer treats patients, he goes into work every day to teach residents at the Women’s Guild Simulation Center for Advanced Clinical Skills and continues his lifelong work creating surgical improvements in the laboratory.
Gewertz, who joined Berci in person for the celebration in a surgery department conference room, said the party was "a celebration of life and a man who has continued to contribute at the very highest level for all these years. We certainly anticipate a similar celebration in a hundred years when George turns 200."
As the party wound to a close, Berci offered a simple message for his guests.
"Here we are, after 100 years," he said in a soft-spoken voice. "Thank you."