The vascular surgery world has lost one of its leading lights. Herbert Dardik, MD, a giant of the specialty renowned for his innovative work on the umbilical vein graft and as a champion of emerging vascular surgeons, has died. He was 84.
A native of the Garden State, for almost 50 years Dardik was an omnipresent figure at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, New Jersey, where he rose to become the institution’s chief of vascular surgery, and, in 2016, its chief emeritus of vascular surgery and general surgery. In 1978, he founded the hospital’s first vascular surgery fellowship program, much later chipping in to help revive it after its brief curtailment. Retiring from clinical practice in 2017, Dardik remained a familiar presence at the hospital until a year ago as his health started to deteriorate. He died of natural causes.
Dardik’s career as a leading vascular surgeon was not without significant merit. His work to develop the first tissue-engineered bypass graft in the 1970s was used to prevent gangrene and save lower limbs—an approach hailed as “revolutionary” for its time.
He also was noted for the passion he demonstrated in educating future generations of vascular surgeons. Indeed, one of his three children, son Alan Dardik, MD, also became a vascular surgeon, currently serving as professor of vascular surgery at Yale University School of Medicine. Meanwhile, his other son, Michael Dardik, MD, is a pathologist, and daughter, Sharon Dardik, MD, a pediatrician.
In 2017, Dardik’s accomplishments attracted lofty recognition when the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) bestowed upon him its prestigious SVS Lifetime Achievement Award. At the time, the accolade was described as breaking new ground: For the first time, it was being awarded to a surgeon who truly hailed from clinical practice.
“He has had a long and distinguished career in every corner of our profession, from clinical practice and community practitioner, to academic, to teacher and researcher,” the SVS said. “In every way, our 2017 recipient is a shining example of contributions to research, science, practice and leadership, along with his never-say-quit work ethic.”
In the same chronicle of Dardik’s career accomplishments, the SVS pointed to another landmark that bears testament to a commitment that would help usher in the generations who would follow in his wake.
“Dr. Dardik has maintained a research laboratory that also serves as an early training site for high school and college students providing unique and unusual experiences for these young people,” the Society’s dedication read. “A recent project employs human umbilical cord arteries as aortic interposition grafts in rats and is also used to enhance residents’ skill.”
Richard A. Lynn, MD, a vascular surgeon in Palm Beach, Florida, went further when he nominated Dardik for the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Timing is everything in life, and it is especially honorific for me, serving on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of SVS and representing the Community Practice Committee, as chair, that I place Dr. Dardik’s name in nomination,” he wrote in his nomination cover form.
“He is truly the classical representative of the stellar private/community practitioner, striving each and every day to uphold all of the academic qualities inherent in the matrix of SVS.”
Last year, Dardik was inducted into the American College of Surgeons Academy of Master Surgeon Educators—an achievement of which his family is immensely proud. On Monday (May 11), the day Dardik died, son, Alan, captured a career of accomplishment in a pithy tweet announcing his father’s passing: “Dr. Herbert Dardik died today. #Vascular #surgeon, mentor, @VascularSVS Lifetime Achievement Awardee. Umbilical vein biograft, distal AV fistula, clamps, shunts, distal bypass, completion angiography, educator. My Dad. RIP.”
Dardik is survived by wife, Janet, to whom he was married for more than 60 years, and his three children.