Victor Chernick M.D. FRCPC

My Story...

Victor Chernick was born on December 31, 1935 in Winnipeg's illustrious north end, like his father Jack before him. His mother, Mina Tapper, was an immigrant who had come from Bellarus at the age of 6. She lived behind her father's grocery store, Tapper's Grocery on Selkirk Avenue, attended Aberdeen and St. John's Tech schools and worked at Woolworths Department Store until her marriage. His father was in the chicken hatchery business - Reliable Hatcheries and Reliable Pet Store which later evolved into National Photo. Victor has two younger siblings, a brother and a sister who no longer live in Winnipeg.

His first grade at I.L. Peretz School was a big disappointment, and evidently he gave his mother an ultimatum - ither Champlain School or no school! So Champlain it was, followed by Luxton school and St. John's Tech. Growing up in the North end was a story all in itself. The "new" YMHA on Hargrave St. and the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity club rooms at the old Yon Albert St. were major focal points for social interaction.

After high school he attended the University of Manitoba for 3 years then entered the Faculty of Medicine there in 1955, graduating in 1959. After a rotating internship at Winnipeg General Hospital he moved to Baltimore where he trained in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, specializing in lung disease in children. Following training he was appointed an Assistant Professor in 1965 in the Department of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Then, wanting to give something back to the school where he had had an excellent education, he accepted an appointment in 1966 in the Department of Pediatrics and Physiology at the University of Manitoba. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1967. In 1971 he succeeded Dr. Harry Medovy as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Manitoba as well as Pediatrician-in-Chief at the Winnipeg Children's Hospital, a position he held until 1979. One of his major accomplishments during this time was the hiring of additional academic pediatricians with a variety of sub-specialty training which increased the department from 11 to 35 full-time doctors, greatly enhancing the clinical and research capability of the department. In 1971 he was one of the founding members of the Children's Hospital Research Foundation, Inc.

In 1967 Dr. Chernick was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth Scientist award for medical research, an award which offered the Chernicks the privilege of attending a dinner with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in Ottawa. In 1970 he received the Canadian Pediatric Society Medal for Research. He was named a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1972. He feels privileged to have served as guest lecturer and visiting professor at numerous hospitals and association conferences throughout the world. In May 2002 the University of Manitoba conferred on him the title of Professor Emeritus.

During the 1960's through the 1980's Dr. Chernick concentrated his energies on specific research, focusing on basic physiology -how the fetus begins to breathe, the development of the lungs, care for the newborn with underdeveloped lungs. In the 1970's he introduced the "Continuous Negative Pressure" machine, a procedure that dropped an 80% mortality rate in preterm newborns down to 25%. He participated in multi-centered trials of new therapies vital to the survival of premature infants (surfactant replacement therapy -a process which replaces a vital deficient substance in the preterm lungs) and in children with Cystic Fibrosis (inhalation of an enzyme which breaks down mucus so patients can breathe easier). His research has been published in over 200 papers and book chapters. He has published several books and since the 1970's has been involved with the editing of the Kendig's Disorders of the Respiratory Tract in Children, the most prominent textbook in pediatric respiratory medicine. In May 2002 he took on the new position of editor-in-chief of a monthly international journal (Pediatric Pulmonology) devoted to pediatric lung disease.

Victor has served on the Boards of many national and international medical organizations. While much of his life has centered around medicine, he has a variety of interests and hobbies. He has a private pilot's license (now inactive), is a Manitoba Marathon runner, a certified scuba diver, an avid downhill skier, a world traveller and an aspiring duplicate bridge player. Not to mention an orthopedic surgeon at the Teddy Bears Picnic! He has also served on the Boards of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the old YMHA, Rady Jewish Community Centre, and the Rainbow Society.

One of Dr. Chernick's most satisfying accomplishments has been the postgraduate training of nearly three dozen men and women from all corners of the world including South America, Israel, Europe, Phillipines, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan and the United States. His first trainee was Dr. Rey Pagtakhan who came to Winnipeg in 1968 and later left academic pediatrics for an outstanding career as a Liberal member and cabinet minister of the Canadian Parliament.

In 1957 Victor married Norma Fordman and they have four children -Marla, Sharon, Richard and Lisa- and now 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson. Many of their activities have revolved around Winnipeg's Jewish community. They have formed many lifelong friendships here and are proud of this community and its accomplishments, especially the Asper Jewish Community Campus and the Rady Centre. As a message to future generations, Victor says, "consider Winnipeg - I did not need to live in Boston or New York to accomplish things that would have international influence, I could do it from Winnipeg (even before computers!) - and so can you."