In memoriam: Dr. Mervyn Gornitsky
Pace-setting oral surgeon and educator was Chief Emeritus of Dentistry at the JGH
The JGH and its Department of Dentistry are saddened to note the passing on March 15 of Dr. Mervyn Gornitsky, whose distinguished career earned him the title of Chief Emeritus of his department and led to the JGH Dental Clinic being named in his honour.
Dr. Gornitsky, 92, was widely recognized for his compassion for his patients and his life-long interest in the latest dental practices and techniques, many of which he was instrumental in bringing to the JGH.
In addition, his love of dentistry motivated him to continue teaching and conducting research until relatively recently. He taught into his 90s, with his last student obtaining a Ph.D. in 2021.
“This is such a wonderful gesture,” Dr. Gornitsky said in late 2020, after hearing that the JGH Dental Clinic would be named after him. “I’m so proud of this legacy. I spent a good part of my life developing the department.”
Dr. Gornitsky served as his department’s Chief from 1971 to 1998. McGill University’s Faculty of Dentistry also recognized his life-long contribution by naming him an Emeritus Professor in 2002.
When the Dental Clinic was named for him, Dr. Mel Schwartz, Chief of the Department, praised Dr. Gornitsky as “an outstanding role model for many dentists who have trained at the JGH.
“His impact on our department has been exceptional. Under his leadership, it has earned a reputation for providing excellence in patient care, advanced education in dentistry and research.”
Among his accomplishments was travelling with JGH colleagues to Sweden in 1984, where they learned what was then the new technique of surgically placing a dental implant into the jawbone to serve as the strong and durable root of an artificial tooth.
In the 1980s, the JGH also had one of the few dental departments in a Quebec hospital that treated HIV/AIDS patients, with Dr. Gornitsky having personally treated about 2,000 people, using techniques that he helped adapt for this purpose.
As well, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he played a pivotal role in helping to establish Canada’s largest saliva biobank at the JGH, a significant means of pursuing research into the virus.
Dr. Gornitsky began his private practice as an oral surgeon in 1956, when his specialty was almost unknown in Canada. Having trained in New York, he became the first oral surgeon in Montreal to be certified by the American Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. He joined the JGH Department of Dentistry in 1957.
Throughout his career, Dr. Gornitsky also travelled around the world to speak to colleagues about his work, and he authored or co-authored dozens of articles for journals in his field.
“The key is to stay interested, stay curious and be open to new ideas,” he said in 2020. “It’s what has made my many decades of work so fulfilling.”