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Dr. Norman S. Talner, 1925 - 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017 - 10:45

Norman TainerDr. Norman Talner of Chapel Hill, NC died on August 17th. Dr. Talner served on the ABP Subboard of Pediatric Cardiology from 1969-1974.  From 1982-1995, he was the Medical Editor of the Pediatric Cardiology Subboard. 

Dr. Talner was born in 1925, and moved shortly thereafter with his family to New Rochelle, NY, where his father opened a jewelry store, which still exists, and where he attended public schools.  In 1943 he entered the University of Michigan under the Navy V-12 program, earning a bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1945 and a medical degree in 1947.

He completed an internship and residency at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1951 returned to the University of Michigan for a residency in pediatrics at University Hospital.  From 1952 to 1954 he served as a captain in the U.S Air Force, training medical personnel about communicable disease control during the Korean War at the School of Aviation Medicine in Montgomery, Alabama.  He joined the faculty at the University of Michigan as an instructor in 1954, and completed a two-year fellowship in pediatric cardiology—he was the first such trainee at the University of Michigan.

In 1960 Dr. Talner was appointed assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale, serving as director of pediatric cardiology for 22 years and professor of pediatrics for 17 years.  After taking a sabbatical in Chapel Hill at the American Board of Pediatrics he was recruited to Duke as clinical professor of pediatrics, a post he held until being granted emeritus status in 2007.  He served as interim chief of pediatric cardiology at Duke from 1995 to 1996. He also served the American Board of Pediatrics as a member of the Cardiology Sub-board from 1969-74 and as the medical editor from 1982-95.

It was at Yale where he set the tone for his major career contributions. Initially he established a pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory for diagnosis and understanding of the pathogenesis of heart disease in infants and children, and then created a modern Section of Pediatric Cardiology. He was relentless in his endeavor to understand the basic physiologic disturbances that afflicted his patients. He was exceptionally well schooled in the foundations of respiratory and acid-base function and quickly realized how these provided considerable insight into the primary disruption created by the specific heart lesions. He enriched his education by working with Geoffrey Dawes at the Nuffield Institute at Oxford and by recruiting and training a cadre of extremely talented and curious physicians. He built bridges to the basic sciences at Yale, particularly with S. Evans Downing (Pathology), C. Norman Gillis (Pharmacology), Clement Markert (Biology), and with Nick Greene (Anesthesiology) and W.W. Glenn (Cardiac Surgery). He developed a formal NIH funded training program that provided for pediatric cardiology fellows to work in some of the most productive research laboratories. He created an environment that promoted critical thinking and constant questioning, and set the tone for inquiry. He was a thought leader at Yale in this endeavor, and over the years in this setting some of the national leaders in pediatric cardiology emerged.

Perhaps his career was most characterized by his generosity of spirit, which fostered the careers of many younger colleagues and stimulated ideas of peers in basic and clinical science.  The steps along this important path are revealed by publications and important milestones in pediatric cardiology. His series of articles with Downing or Dawes on cardiovascular function during hypoxia and acidemia, are examples of the early phase of his career. The articles with Charlie Kleinman on the use of fetal echocardiogram for diagnosis of structural heart disease and fetal dysrhythmias signal his recognition of the power of non-invasive diagnosis and support of a junior colleague who was a pioneer in the field. His support and prompting of Mike Berman and later Bill Hellenbrand to be creative in the catheterization laboratory indicate his ability to bring out the best in others. Over and above these publications are a large number of manuscripts, many with George Lister, that help the pediatrician and the pediatric cardiologist understand how perturbation of cardio-respiratory function steers the course of congenital cardiac defects. He was also a major contributor to the New England Regional Cardiac Program that was one of the first collaborative efforts to explore the effects of the patent ductus arteriosus on outcome of the premature infant and to consider, in a rigorous fashion, how this problem should be managed.

Dr. Talner’s contributions were recognized by the many honors he received, including the Cardiology Founder’s Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the 2009 Distinguished Service Award from the University of Michigan’s Medical Center Alumni Society. The Pediatric Cardiology library and conference room at Yale is named for him. And he was awarded dozens of visiting professorships in the U.S. and abroad.

Norman Talner loved playing sports, particularly tennis and golf, and he liked to watch championship tennis and golf on TV.  He also enjoyed watching Duke basketball games, especially in person, when there was an available seat.  He also loved music of all kinds—from jazz to big band to classical.  He was proud of playing trumpet in the U of M marching band.

Following graduation from medical school he married Trudy Levi, who predeceased him in 2002.  He is survived by his wife, Frances Sherwin, whom he married in 2004, and three daughters: Nancy Talner of Seattle WA, Ellen Zuerndorfer of Clearwater FL, and Lauren Spiliotes and her husband Nicholas of Bethesda MD, and six grandchildren.