Milton Weinberg, M.D.

Milton Weinberg, M.D.Often put in extraordinary circumstances making life-and-death decisions, whether serving in the 8055 MASH unit during the Korean War or during a five-decade career as one of Chicago’s pre-eminent Cardiothoracic Surgeons, Dr. Milton Weinberg’s eyes have seen a lot over the course of his life. Now fully retired, Dr. Weinberg’s eyes see the remarkable beauty of nature through a lens of a camera.  He took up photography after a recommendation from a member of the camera club in the Lake Forest Presbyterian Homes community where he resides. The club is one of forty associated with the famed Chicago Area Camera Clubs Association (CACCA), founded in 1936.

According to Dr. Weinberg, photography keeps his brain active. “It’s remarkable. I enjoy every bit of it – the focus on nature’s magnificence, the challenge of learning a new technology, and the opportunity to meet and share my work with other photographers,” he says. “Sometimes, the most beautiful sight is right outside my kitchen window. In fact, the picture I took from my kitchen window of a cardinal in the snow won an award from both the CACCA and the North Shore Camera Club.” (see photo gallery.) 

Exactly how Dr. Weinberg got to that kitchen window in Lake Forest, Illinois, is a journey wherein the MUSC Department of Surgery played a key role. Dr. Weinberg graduated from Duke University School of Medicine and entered his residency at Roper Hospital in 1949. His residency was interrupted in 1951 by military service in the 8055 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH), a fully functional hospital in a Korean combat zone that became the inspiration for the famous TV show M*A*S*H.  Dr. Weinberg recently produced a short film for a Veteran’s Day celebration based on his experiences in the 8055, noting that 97 percent of all wounded soldiers brought to a MASH unit survived – never before had survival rates been so high.  During his time in Korea, Dr. Weinberg crossed the historic 38th parallel several times. He saw a massive onslaught of wounded when the fight was heavy; some of the young soldiers were torn apart pretty badly. He found the resilience of the young soldiers astonishing. He believed if the young soldiers could endure combat, he could certainly do his job to the best of his ability. The video is available for viewing on the MUSC Curtis P. Artz Surgical Society YouTube Channel.  

Returning home from service a little older and a little more serious, Dr. Weinberg re-entered his residency at Roper Hospital and began his fellowship at MUSC, first in Pathology, then in Surgical Residency. “The MUSC fellowship program was a great experience. You did procedures that almost no one ever did – the program was ahead of its time,” he recalls.  During his fellowship, Dr. Eddie Parker, a recognized leader in thoracic surgery in the state of South Carolina, was one of his mentors. “There was no formal or approved residency program in cardiothoracic surgery until 1965. Dr. Parker knew I was interested in cardiothoracic surgery and helped guide my path,” said Weinberg, who served as MUSC Chief Resident in General Surgery in 1955. “But, it was Dr. Kredel, Chairman of the Department at the time, who recommended I visit Dr. Egbert H. Fell in Chicago, clinical professor of Surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, and attending surgeon at Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals in Chicago. I visited Dr. Fell and we hit it off right away.  In 1955, I began my fellowship in Cardiovascular Surgery at Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, under the direction of Dr. Fell.”

Once Dr. Weinberg completed his fellowship, he received his first hospital appointment at Cook County Hospital, settling into a five-decade career as one of Chicago’s pre-eminent cardiothoracic surgeons and founding member of the Chicago-based Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Founded in 1964, the Society, headquartered in Chicago, now has more than 7,100 members in 90 countries.

Dr. Weinberg is not only a decorated military surgeon, rising to the rank of Major and earning a Bronze Star Medal for his meritorious service in a combat zone; he is also recognized for his contributions to the field of cardiothoracic surgery. At Cook County Hospital, Dr. Weinberg was Founder and Chairman of the Department of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (1964-68). During his time at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, Dr. Weinberg served as President of the Medical Staff and a member of the Board of Trustees from 1977-79. Then, at Lutheran General Hospital, Dr. Weinberg’s accomplishments include Chairman, Department of Surgery (1989-94); Chairman Emeritus, and Vice-Chairman, Department of Surgery (1994-98, 1999-2003). He held faculty appointments at the University of Illinois School of Medicine, Rush Medical Center, and the University of Chicago School of Medicine.

Dr. Weinberg and his wife, Joan, now reside in a retirement community in Lake Forest, Illinois. This past October, during the American College of Surgeons Annual Clinical Congress Meeting in Chicago, Dr. Prabhakar Baliga, Chairman of the MUSC Department of Surgery, visited the couple in their Lake Forest home.

“Joan and I very much appreciated the visit,” said Dr. Weinberg. “I’m really delighted to be a part of MUSC again – the residency program was such a great experience.” In the past, he would see Dr. Parker at conferences, but since Dr. Parker’s passing, he hadn’t kept up with anyone.

“I’ve reconnected with Randy Bradham, too,” he notes. “We have a lot in common. We grew up together in Sumter, SC. We both served our country during wartime. Randy saw extremely tough combat in WWII – he was a squad leader in mortal and eminent danger in extended combat in France.  In fact, he has written two books on his experiences.” Another thing the two have in common is their quest for staying active during retirement. Dr. Bradham is a retired MUSC cardiothoracic surgeon who now owns Sweet Blues, a 40-acre blueberry farm in Hollywood, SC.

Awaiting the first snowfall of the season outside their kitchen window, most Sunday mornings before church you can find Joan and Milton sitting at the kitchen table next to the window enjoying the local Charleston grits Dr. Baliga brought as a gift. “We are nursing them carefully,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “We parse them out on Sunday mornings so we can enjoy them as long as possible.”