Ephraim S. Siker, M.D. – 1926-2013

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September 1, 2013 Volume 77, Number 9
Ephraim S. Siker, M.D. – 1926-2013 Bernard Wolfson, M.D.

Ephraim S. Siker, M.D., was born in Port Chester, New York, On March 24, 1926. His father, Samuel Siker, was a family physician. Ephraim was known to his family, countless friends, colleagues and students as “Rick.” After high school in Port Chester, he started his pre-medical studies at Duke University. Graduating shortly before the end of WWII, he enlisted in the Navy, becoming a hospital corpsman while awaiting his admission to New York University’s College of Medicine. He received his M.D. in 1949.

Dr. Siker completed his internship and began his resident training in anesthesiology at the Westchester County Hospital, where he met and planned to marry Eileen Bohnel, a nurse at the hospital. These plans were interrupted by the Korean War in December of 1950.

Rick had remained in the Navy reserve and was loaned to the Army to serve as an anesthesiologist in the 4th Field Hospital in Korea. After returning to the United States and Naval jurisdiction, Dr. Siker served as Chief of Anesthesia Services at the Bremerton Naval Hospital in Washington State. He and Eileen were married on August 5, 1951.

Upon discharge in October 1952, Dr. Siker accepted a position at the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Research Medicine, where he was awarded a U.S. Public Health Service Research Fellowship. During this period, he also completed the four months of official training required by the American Board of Anesthesiology at the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh under the chairmanship of Dr. Francis Foldes, a world icon in the field. Completing his fellowship obligations and training requirements, he joined the anesthesia faculty of the Mercy Hospital, becoming its vice-chairman. In 1955, Dr. Siker accepted a one-year exchange teaching position as a consultant in the British National Health Service at the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff, Wales. He and Eileen traveled to Cardiff with their then two young children.

In July 1960, when Dr. Foldes accepted the Chair of Anesthesia at Montefiore Hospital in New York, Dr. Siker became Chairman of Anesthesiology at Mercy Hospital. During his 34-year tenure, 280 physicians completed their residencies in his department, with several being tapped to serve as chairs of anesthesia in prestigious academic departments.

In 1973, as part of President Nixon’s attempt to connect with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences sponsored a task force of eight physicians and scientists to be hosted by the PRC. Goals of this exchange included an investigation of the many claims that had been made for the benefits of acupuncture. Dr. Siker’s research in the studies of pain and pain pathways, and narcotics and narcotic antagonists, led to his appointment to this task force.

An active career in research, publication and teaching led to a number of invitations to lecture, deliver eponymous addresses and invitations to join various consultant groups. In 1971, Dr. Siker was elected as a director of the American Board of Anesthesiology, and he served as its secretary/treasurer for nine years and as president in 1983. In 1973, at the age of 47, Dr. Siker became one of the youngest presidents ever elected by ASA. He delivered the ASA’s most prestigious lecture, the Emery A. Rovenstine Memorial Lecture, in 1981 and received its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, in 1983. Much to his delight, one of his trainees, Professor Jim Cottrell, followed in all of these ASA-related footsteps. He chaired the Executive Committee of the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists from 1980 to 1984, and served as its vice-president through 1990.

He was a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties Executive Committee from 1987-89 and a Trustee of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates from 1978-80.

Dr. Siker is survived by Eileen Bohnel Siker, his beloved wife of 62 years; their five children, Kathleen E. Siker, Jeffrey S. Siker, Ph.D., David A. Siker, M.D., Paul W. Siker and Richard F. Siker; their eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Bernard Wolfson, M.D., staff anesthesiologist (retired), Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh.