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In Memoriam: John W. Ertl, MD

John W. Ertl, MD, born Janos Vilmos von Ertl in Budapest, Hungary, in 1921, passed away March 27. He was 95.

Ertl received his surgical training at Pazmany Peter University (now Semmelweis University), Budapest. His education was enhanced by the training he and his brother William (formerly Vilmos), received from their father, Janos Vilmos von Ertl Sr., who was the surgical chief and surgeon general of Hungary at that time. The family was separated during World War II, but they were reunited in Herborn, Germany, as war refugees. In Herborn, Ertl established a surgical practice with his father and brother, where they cared for tens of thousands of war veterans and civilian casualties. This work continued until an invitation from Dallas B. Phemister, MD, at the University of Chicago, brought the family to the United States.

Although an accomplished surgeon, Ertl was required to repeat his surgical training, which he completed at Presbyterian Hospital (now Rush University Medical Center) and at the now-closed St. Anne’s Hospital, both located in Chicago. On completion of this training, Ertl and his brother established a surgical practice in Hinsdale, Illinois. It is here that their surgical skills were solidified over 40 years, including the reintroduction of the Ertl osteomyoplastic reconstruction procedure, developed by their father, for individuals with amputations. He performed the Ertl procedure on patients from all walks of life, culminating in a 2003 invitation by the U.S. government to consult on the anticipated limb amputation casualties in the second Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. In 2005, he received the golden diploma for 60 years of medical practice.

Ertl remained an active member and board member in multiple societies, including the American College of Surgeons, German Medical Society, Barr Foundation, and Hungarian Medical Association of America (HMAA) of which he was a founding member and served as the honorary vice president.

According to his family, he was a Renaissance man and Renaissance surgeon who believed in the power of regeneration of the body, mind, and human spirit. He loved life, his work, his family, his countries, recreating his life, and adapting to each new challenge. He lived what he believed: Wer in sein zeit vieles macht, wird nie sterben (He who makes much in his time will never die).

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in the name of the Dr. Ertl Endowment Fund to HMAA, P.O. Box 421, Amherst, NY 14226.

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