University of Minnesota

Reuben Berman, MD

1908 — 2004

Berman came from a large family originating in Lithuania and Poland. He received all his education at the University of Minnesota where he later held clinical professorships at the VA Hospital and Hennepin County Medical affiliates of the University. Berman pioneered national clinical trials for prevention of cardiovascular diseases, starting with a successful clinic of the Coronary Drug Project in the 1960s, which tested six drugs for secondary prevention. This he parlayed into units for 1970s trials: AMIS, HDFP, and later TOMHS and more recently the Woman’s Health Initiative. In all of the trials conducted by the Berman Center it became a model unit for recruitment, response rate, and compliance, demonstrating the effectiveness of a private, non-academic institution for collaborative preventive trials.

Berman combined personal humility with wide scholarship, intense curiosity and drive, and efficient and effective management, where staff and subjects alike were content and motivated.

Berman once played the shofar, a traditional lamb’s horn used only during Elul, in late August and early September:

“Musicians know that to play an instrument well, practice must be a daily, year-round chore,” he writes in a memoir. “When I was performing in public my shofaring was practiced in every month. And if I am refused eventual residence in heaven, I doubt it will be the result of this transgression.”

Berman accompanied Ancel Keys to a pilot study in Sardinia in 1954 and remembered traveling with Keys and Paul D. White:

“When you travel with Ancel Keys and Paul White, you are traveling with nobility in the scientific world. I spent a week in Sardinia and roomed with Paul White and he regaled me with stories, which I’m sure you might want to use. He told me about an incident in London when he picked up a newspaper at the newsstand and it was all about the heart attack of the King of Greece.

“Paul said, ‘I’m sitting there in my room in the hotel reading this thing and thinking who is the best man in Europe to take care of the King of Greece? Why, it is I.’ The next day he was in Greece. And that was the story he told me.”


Oral History with Henry Blackburn, August 22, 2002.

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