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Mets retires from Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, leaves legacy that includes museum

Dr. Berend Mets is not only retiring with great respect from his peers and a book to his name, he is also leaving behind his own museum.

Mets, chair of Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, stepped down from his position on June 30 after two decades. In his time at the department, he has created quite a legacy. The most compelling of which may be the Dr. Berend Mets Museum of Anesthesia History.

In 2020, Mets and a few colleagues created a space dedicated to the history of medical anesthesia, complete with several antique devices, in the Julien F. Biebuyck Library at the College of Medicine.

Creation of the museum is not a surprise to anyone knowing Mets, who says he fell in love with anesthesiology in 1982 as an intern at Edendale Hospital in his home country of South Africa. He anesthetized a patient receiving an orthopedic procedure. In his book, “Waking Up Safer? An Anesthesiologist’s Record,” Mets recalls his palms sweating as he tracked the man’s pulse and brought him back to life.

“Dr. Mets has so much passion for his field,” said Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of the College of Medicine. “You can see that with the museum, his book and how he has bettered the department during his time there.”

Mets oversaw expansion of the department’s name in 2015 to include “perioperative medicine.” Nationally, he was a leader in making the change. He co-authored an editorial in the journal Anesthesiology calling for the renaming.

“Ever since we gave the first anesthetic in 1846, anesthesiologists have been doing more and more work outside of the operating room,” Mets said at the time of the name change. “Anesthesia has developed from being an operating-room based specialty to one which encompasses the whole of perioperative medicine, which is the medical care of patients undergoing surgery.”

During his time as chair, the number of National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded researchers has gone from one to four, and the department publishes over 77 papers a year.

Dr. Jill Eckert, interim chair of the department, began her new role on July 1.

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