American Univesity of Beirut

Remembering a medical pioneer: Dr. Bernard J. Brandstater

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Office of Communcations,

AUB mourned the passing of one of its leaders and inspiring figures in the world of science and medicine, at the age of 90. Dr. Bernard J. Brandstater (1929-2020), the founding chair of AUB’s Department of Anesthesiology (1956-69), pioneered a number of medical advances during his 13-year tenure at AUB. 

His journey
Brandstater was brought to AUH (now AUBMC) in 1956 on a two-year contract by Dr. Joseph J. McDonald, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the time. In two years, and with a history of being the youngest among peers in school and career, 28-year-old Brandstater was appointed as founding chairman of the newly established Department of Anesthesiology. 

A stunning example of Brandstater’s medical advances is his invention of techniques for prolonged intubation of infants afflicted with life-threatening newborn tetanus. Success with this technology had no precedent in medical literature. Untold numbers of babies, many with problems other than tetanus, could be treated and saved. 

Brandstater continued to do groundbreaking work throughout his career. In 1965 he secured a place in the annals of history at AUBMC by organizing and hosting the first international congress of Middle East anesthesiologists on the AUB campus. The following year he founded The Middle East Journal of Anesthesiology, which is still a valuable publication for researchers and practitioners. He also came up with the journal’s famous motto, “For some must watch, while some must sleep” (Hamlet: Act. III, Scene ii). Brandstater pioneered new respiratory treatments for adult polio patients and introduced the practice of epidural analgesia for painless birth deliveries to Europe and the Middle East. He also introduced positive pressure ventilation for respiratory care at AUBMC.

Perhaps most significantly, he is responsible for providing a foundation model in which to practice pediatric intensive care, leading to AUB’s acclaimed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In recent years, Brandstater joined with AUB FM doctors Fouad Salim Haddad (BA ’44, MD ’48) and Musa Khalil Muallem (BA ’53, MD ’57) in co-authoring a history of AUB’s Department of Anesthesiology.

After AUB, Brandstater moved to Loma Linda University in southern California where he was a professor of anesthesiology. He continued to do innovative work, primarily in using acupuncture in conjunction with traditional techniques to manage chronic pain. Such treatments are administered in a pain management clinic established by Brandstater in California.

Brandstater is survived by his wife Beverly; his four children, Suzanne, Kerry, Nigel, and Elizabeth; his children's mother, Neridah; and seven grandchildren.

In audio: Brandstater’s story

To hear a fascinating account in Dr. Brandstater’s own words of his journey to AUB and his early breakthroughs at AUB that led to his appointment as the first chair of anesthesiology, listen to this interview conducted by Martin Asser in Beirut on April 27, 2018 for​ MainGate magazine​.​
Part 1: "I sat and I breathed for her for 18 hours"

Part 2: "The sign on the pump said 'For use in animals only'"

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