discoveries magazine

Pioneering Surgeon Turns 100

A black and white photo of Dr. George Berci in 1962 with his video bronchoscope invention.

Dr. George Berci, circa 1962, with his video bronchoscope invention.

Turning 100 is a rare milestone—but George Berci, MD, has accumulated as many astonishing accomplishments as he has years.

In March 2021, the pioneering surgeon—Cedars-Sinai's senior director of surgical endoscopy and innovation research—celebrated a century of legendary life. 

During the Holocaust, the one-time violin prodigy was conscripted into forced labor in his native Hungary until he narrowly escaped. In 1950, he earned his medical degree and, a few years later, helped establish one of the first experimental surgery programs in Europe.

In 1970, Cedars-Sinai recruited Berci to join the Department of Surgery, and he soon established the medical center's first multidisciplinary endoscopic surgical division. (Endoscopic surgery uses an endoscope—a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end.) Berci developed miniaturized instruments and cameras that revolutionized the field of minimally invasive surgery and continue to influence nearly every surgical specialty.

Today's technology looks slightly more hospitable than Berci's early inventions (see photo). And while he no longer treats patients, Berci still comes to work every week. 

His secret to longevity?

"I get up very early," he says. "I go through what I need to do for the day, eat two pieces of toast with a cup of tea, take a short walk or go to the gym, and then I am usually at work by 7 a.m."

Dr. George Berci, in 2020, during his 100th birthday.

Dr. George Berci, in 2020, during his 100th birthday.