William C. Bernstein, M.D.

William C. Bernstein, M.D., was born in 1904 in Stillwater, Minnesota.  In 1921 he entered the combined six-year pre-medical and medical course at the University of Minnesota, where he received his B.S. in 1925 and M.B. in 1927.  Upon the completion of the required internship, he was granted his M.D. in 1928.  Dr. Bernstein began medical practice in New Richland, a village of fewer than 800 people in southern Minnesota.  For the next several years he practiced as a country doctor.  Following a severe streptococcal throat infection from which he nearly died, Dr. Bernstein was advised to give up his country practice for the sake of his health.  Faced with the need to change the course of his professional life, in 1940 he entered the University of Minnesota as a graduate student in the Department of Surgery in order to study the growing field of proctology.

After three years (1943-6) serving in the U.S. Army, Dr. Bernstein returned to Minnesota to begin a rectal service at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis.  In May 1950 the American Board of Proctology conducted its first certifying examination and Bernstein was one of six candidates to take the examination successfully.  Two months later, at Bernstein’s urging, the Medical School at the University of Minnesota established a proctology residency program.  The first resident was a Canadian, Dr. Earl Myers, who after his return to his home city of Toronto was the first board-certified proctologist to practice in Canada.

While developing the residency program in colon and rectal surgery during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Bernstein also expanded the annual continuing education course in colon and rectal disease.  The course had been launched in 1938 as a one-day course in proctology designed to teach general practitioners how to use the proctoscope and how to recognize the various forms of colon and rectal disease.  By 1963 Bernstein had expanded the course to five days, and it attracted both general practitioners and surgeons from the whole of North America.  Though a progressive muscular atrophy forced Bernstein to retire from active surgical practice in 1967, and to retire from practicing medicine in 1972, he continued his work in other ways, through education, consultation, and fundraising.  Since 1988, the William C. Bernstein, M.D., Memorial Lecture, presented every year at the Colon and Rectal Surgery: Principles and Practice course, has carried on Dr. Bernstein’s tradition of excellence in medical education.

Past Lectures


2016Jonathan Efron, MDMultidisciplinary Management of Recurrent Rectal Cancer
2015Nancy N. Baxter, MDLymph Node Retrieval: Does It Matter
2014George Chang, MDColorectal Cancer Surgery: Setting the Standards
2013Jose GuillemManaging the Clinical Complete Response in Rectal Cancer: Hurry up and Wait?
2012Patricia Roberts, MDDiverticulitis - Who Needs an Operation?
2011James FleshmanFuture Directions in Minimally Invasive Surgery
2010Walter KoltunEtiology and Biology of Crohn’s Disease
2009Conor DelaneyLaparoscopy- Future Perspectives
2008Jeffrey MilsomLaparoscopy- Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going?
2007Andrew ShorthouseImproving Quality or Life in Patients with Ulcerative Colitis
2006Lars PahlmanLessons from Clinical Trials in Rectal Cancer Therapy
2005Anthony J. SenagoreLaparoscopic Colorectal Surgery: Where Are We Now? Where Are We Going?
2004John M.A. NorthoveRectal Cancer Surgery: Lessons for the 21st Century
2003Ian C. LaveryCurrent Operative Management of Rectal Cancer
2002James M. ChurchThe Clinical Impact of Recent Advances in the Genetics of Colorectal Cancer
2001Lee E. SmithLocal Therapy for Rectal Neoplasia
2000Santhat H. NivatvongsThe Malignant Polyp: When is Enough Enough?
1999Henry T. LynchClinical Aspects of Hereditary Colorectal Cancer
1998Judah FolkmanAngiogenic Therapy of Cancer
1997Robin S. McLeodRecurrent Crohn’s Disease: How to Avoid it and What to do When You Get it Anyway
1996Mark KillingbackLarge Bowel Anastomosis: Towards the Perfect Solution
1995R.J. NichollsOptimizing Outcomes in Colitis Surgery
1994Philip F. SchofieldOperating in the Complex Pelvis
1993Richard L. SimmonsSay Yes to NO
1992Keith A. KellyNew Frontiers in the Management of Chronic Ulcerative Colitis
1991William SilenLiver Resections for Metastatic Colorectal Carcinoma
1990Harold EllisFamous Operations
1989John C. GolighterSkepticism in Surgery
1988Ward O.Griffen, Jr.The Education (?) of a Physician