UNMC pathologist remembered as educational leader

Services will be Saturday for William Berton, M.D.

William Berton, M.D. – a key person in transforming the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s education program in pathology/microbiology – died Sept. 1 at The Nebraska Medical Center from complications of post-polio syndrome. He was 89.

“He was a good friend. I consider him my mentor,” said Jim Newland, M.D., emeritus professor, department of pathology/microbiology, and the person who filled Dr. Berton’s position after he retired.  “He was totally dedicated to the medical education of students. He worked hard at it. Students were his first concern and only concern. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

Dr. Berton taught second-year medical students pathology and microbiology, a key portion of the second-year curriculum.

“He really took our educational programs to a new level,” said Sam Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., professor and former department chairman, pathology/microbiology. “He taught our program for clinical pathology. He was instrumental in breaking the medical students into small groups and getting them into the laboratory setting. He was very committed to medical education and how to do it.”

Dr. Cohen credits Dr. Berton for coordinating UNMC’s pathology program with Methodist Hospital’s program.

Dr. Berton grew up in Fresno, Calif., and served in the Navy during World War II. He graduated from medical school in 1949 from the University of California, San Francisco. While doing his internship in Boston, he contracted polio and was forced to use crutches.  He did his pathology residency training at Duke University.

After completing his training, Dr. Berton served on the faculty at the University of Tennessee. He joined UNMC in 1969 and served as a professor. In 1986, he retired and was named professor emeritus.

“He was a strong individual who survived both polio and esophageal cancer (which he incurred more than 20 years ago),” Dr. Cohen said.

Dr. Berton was extremely active in The Group for Research in Pathology Education (GRIPE) – an organization of pathology educators whose purpose is to promote and facilitate excellence in pathology education.

A memorial service will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Dundee Presbyterian Church, 5312 Underwood Ave. Dr. Berton served as a church elder there. Memorials should be made to the UNMC Department of Pathology/Microbiology or to Dundee Presbyterian Church.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Patricia, and their two sons – William of Gering, Neb. and James of Ashland, Ky. – and their daughter, Pamela Chappell Berton-Johnson, of The Colony, Texas.

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Tom O'Connor
UNMC Public Relations
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