Obituary: Ephraim S. Siker / Saw world with family while devoting life to medicine

March 24, 1926 - June 21, 2013

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E.S. Siker traveled the world. He shared a love for travel with his wife, Eileen Bohnel Siker -- the two visited every continent together.

Dr. Siker, of Mt. Lebanon, called Rick by family and friends, died Friday. He was 87.

Born in Port Chester, N.Y., Dr. Siker completed his premedical studies at Duke University in 1945 before enlisting in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman. In 1949, Dr. Siker graduated with a medical degree from New York University.

That same year, he completed his internship and began his anesthesia residency at Westchester County Hospital, where Dr. Siker met Eileen Bohnel, who was a supervisor of pediatric communicable diseases, in 1950.

"He entered an area of the hospital, and my mom stopped him," said daughter Kathleen Siker of Mt. Lebanon. "She said he was contaminated and to leave the area. She started bossing him around when they met and continued for 62 years."

Because Dr. Siker served in a M.A.S.H. unit in the Korean War from 1950 to 1951, the couple delayed their marriage until his return in 1951.

They moved to Pittsburgh in 1952 for Dr. Siker to finish his residency, thinking that they would only stay for two years, Kathleen Siker said.

Dr. Siker devoted his life to anesthesiology at UPMC Mercy, where he spent 34 years as the chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology beginning July 1, 1960.

As a token of recognition for his work, the University of Pittsburgh medical school is recruiting an E.S. and Eileen Siker Professor of Anesthesiology.

"It is a real honor for the person appointed and a wonderful way for my dad to continue to be honored," Kathleen Siker said. "I was so happy it happened when he was alive. He was so touched because it is affirmation from peers and younger people of how highly they regarded him."

During his time at Mercy, he led the hospital's anesthesia department in the training of about 280 residents, appointing at least eight to chairman of anesthesia departments, Kathleen Siker said.

Bernard Wolfson of Mt. Lebanon joined Dr. Siker in 1962 when he became department chairman.

"He was my boss, friend and co-worker," Dr. Wolfson said. "He was pretty amazing. He was very bright. He helped so many people. He was a great teacher, as well."

His research led to his appointment by former President Richard Nixon to lead a medical team during his visit to China in 1973 and he also was named the president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

He authored the section on narcotics for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

"He was really proud of his career, and he hoped he contributed to the field," Kathleen Siker said. "I know he did. He really was a wonderful man."

Dr. Siker loved music, opera and the theater, particularly "The Fantasticks." From 1969 to 1979, Dr. Siker wrote the lyrics and music to eight shows for the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine's annual musical-comedy production. For one of the shows, "Rome Wasn't Built in a Day," Kathleen Siker said she had to show them how to twist.

"He made the most of every day," she said. "He felt so lucky to have the life that he had."

Dr. Siker always made sure his children felt they were important in his life, sometimes bringing at least one of his five children along with him on his trips, Kathleen Siker said.

"When I was 19, my dad took me to Las Vegas for a meeting and he liked to pretend I was his young date," she said. "I remember going to the slot machines and ordering my first drink because it was legal then."

As a family, they would travel to their cottage at Cheat Lake, near Morgantown, W.Va.

"We all have great memories of water skiing," Kathleen Siker said. "But it was rustic, very rustic."

When Dr. Siker became ill, he began losing some of his vocabulary, Kathleen Siker said.

"We would tell him that he had more words than most people do so he can afford to lose a few," she said. "He had an incredible vocabulary. He was funny and self-deprecating."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Dr. Siker is survived by his sons Jeffrey Siker of Los Angeles, David Siker of Portland, Ore., Paul Siker of Waterford, Va., and Richard Siker of Mt. Lebanon; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

The memorial service will be at a later date, which has not been determined.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Siker Fund in Anesthesiology and Patient Safety at UPMC Mercy Hospital. Checks can be made out to UPMC Mercy with Siker Fund in the memo and sent to Development Office, UPMC Mercy, 1400 Locust St., Pittsburgh 15219.

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Claire Aronson:, 412-263-1964 or on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.


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