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Jackie Bergmann

A Life Entwined with Barnes-Jewish Hospital

My husband’s career, my career, our family — everything is entwined with Barnes-Jewish. I always knew I would give back.

Though Barnes-Jewish Hospital has deep roots in St. Louis, not many know its history as intimately as Jackie Bergmann. And her family’s personal connection with the hospital and the health care field is one reason she has become a donor to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

In the late 1930s, when she was just 17, Jackie started training for a full-time position as a laboratory technician at Jewish Hospital. There, she met a young thoracic surgeon-in-training, Martin Bergmann, MD.

A mutual friend arranged a blind date for Jackie and Dr. Bergmann. They had a steady courtship while Dr. Bergmann worked long hours to build his career. Eventually, Jackie took matters into her own hands to speed him along.

“He was busy working five or six days a week,” she says. “So, I told him I was going to a frat party in Denver. I think that really worried him! When I got back, he proposed. I always knew it would happen.” 

So much of their lives began at Jewish Hospital, Jackie says.

Dr. Bergmann’s career grew at Jewish Hospital. Jackie later delivered her two sons there. Today, one of those sons is a general surgeon at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and the other is a psychotherapist practicing in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Martin’s career, my career, our family — everything is entwined with Barnes-Jewish,” she says. “I always knew I would give back.”

After Jackie’s beloved husband, Dr. Bergmann, passed away two years ago at the age of 90, she ensured his legacy will live on through a gift she made in his honor to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Her gift is helping educate the next generation of thoracic surgeons following in Dr. Bergmann’s footsteps, and pays tribute to the institution that was such an integral part of the Bergmanns’ life together.

Dr. Bergmann made many contributions to the medical field that brought St. Louis to the forefront of medicine. He was appointed to work with legendary cardiothoracic surgeon Evarts Graham, MD, who started the department of thoracic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Graham was the first surgeon to successfully perform a pneumonectomy, a complete removal of the lung, to treat a type of malignant growth. He was also one of the first physicians to link smoking to lung cancer in laboratory studies.

Working with this trailblazer clearly influenced Dr. Bergmann, who made his own mark on the field of thoracic surgery. Dr. Bergmann was the first surgeon in St. Louis to obtain and use a surgical stapler. Staples, still used in surgery today, give physicians more precision and reduce surgery times. Dr. Bergmann also built the first artificial kidney in St. Louis—the beginnings of dialysis for patients with kidney failure—with Jewish Hospital colleague Burton Shatz, MD.

Carrying on the Legacy 

Dr. Bergmann’s legacy continues in the gift Jackie made in his honor to the cardiothoracic department at Barnes-Jewish Hospital through the Foundation.

The Martin Bergmann, MD, Clinical Research Award Fund helps residents, fellows, and other young faculty at Barnes-Jewish attend research conferences, meetings and symposiums in order to share the results of their research with the medical community.

“Mrs. Bergmann’s gift was a very generous act and it supports the preparation and presentation of research reports for our physician trainees at a time when medical finances have never been tighter,” says Bryan Meyers, MD, chief of the section of thoracic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine and the Patrick and Joy Williamson Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery through the Foundation.

He continues: “A gift like this will ensure our future ability to attract and support the best physician trainees, and increase the likelihood that they stay and join the strong legacy of thoracic surgery here at Barnes-Jewish and Washington University.”