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BernsteinsBy MYRON LOVE

This past spring, brothers Dr. Keevin and Dr. Charles Bernstein were both recognized by their colleagues.


In April 6, Charles Bernstein received the prestigious Dr. John M. Bowman Memorial Winnipeg Rh Institute Foundation Award which recognizes excellence in research among University of Manitoba researchers.  There have been only four previous recipients who have been MDs.
“It’s a wonderful honour,” he says.  “It is the highest honour that a faculty member can receive.”
Keevin Bernstein was awarded Doctors Manitoba’s Health Administration Award at the organization’s 109 annual AGM in late June.  A nephrologist by training, Bernstein, according to the Doctors Manitoba website, is also a highly regarded teacher within the medical school where he has been responsible for coordinating undergraduate nephrology education since 1988. The undergraduate Nephrology course he developed, and continues to maintain, perennially wins the Manitoba Medical Students’ Association (MMSA) award as the best Med II course.
In addition, he has been awarded many individual MMSA teaching awards as well as receiving the prestigious University of Manitoba, Dr. and Mrs. H. H. Saunderson award for excellence in teaching.
Dr. Bernstein has twice led the creation of new UGME curriculum. From 1991 to 2000, he was the Faculty UGME pre-clerkship Med II curriculum coordinator, and co-led the implementation of the new pre-clerkship curriculum introduced in 1997. As Director, UGME Curriculum Renewal from 2010 to 2015, he led the development of the current four year UGME curriculum with clerkship introduced in 2013 and preclerkship in 2014.
In accepting the award, he commented that the award “has given me the opportunity to reflect on the last 30 years of my career. Firstly I want to acknowledge those that gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, and take on leadership roles in both a clinical area and a UGME course which led to broader roles in the Province and Faculty of Medicine. I also want to acknowledge the many people who helped form the vision for these areas, and worked collaboratively with me over the past 30 years to help achieve what we all accomplished together. I want to take this opportunity to encourage the younger people to step out of your own comfort zone, be innovative   and work towards your own initiatives. Don’t accept because it’s not currently done in Manitoba that it can’t be done.”
The Bernstein brothers come from relatively humble north end roots. Their father, as with many new immigrants, began his life in Canada as a grocer and, also as with many immigrants, produced children who became doctors. One of Keevin and Charles’ role models in the field of medicine, Charles notes, was their brother-in-law, Dr. David Goldenberg, a long serving and respected gastroenterologist.
Dr. Keevin Bernstein, the older of the two Bernstein Brothers, became the HSC Central Dialysis Unit Medical Director in 1986. In 1988, he developed a prototype satellite dialysis model known as the Manitoba Local Centres Dialysis Program. This allowed patients to receive the same level of care in their remote home communities as provided at an urban centre. This program was the first and is the largest of its kind in Canada, eventually growing to 16 centres in rural and northern Manitoba, including four directly in First Nation Communities.
Bernstein then became the inaugural Medical Director of the WRHA Manitoba Renal Program, in 1998 through 2007, creating a strategic plan which evolved into a cohesive and centralized approach to managing renal disease in Manitoba. As part of the program, he created the concept of Renal Health Outreach to promote kidney disease prevention and early identification well before any other province or national initiative.
Dr. Charles Bernstein says that it was the intellectual and academic challenges that Medicine presented – as well as the opportunity to help people – that attracted him to the field.
After earning his Medical Degree at the University of Manitoba and completing his Residency here, he moved to L:A – and UCLA where he was undertook a Fellowship to study gastroenterology.
“I really liked gastroenterology,” he says.  “I liked the way the gut works.
I stayed on at UCLA as a faculty member for a couple of years more,” he notes.  “But, after the Rodney King riots, my wife and I decided to return to Winnipeg.  We wanted to raise a family in a peaceful community surrounded by our family.”
Bernstein notes that when he returned home in 1993, he was the first new gastroenterologist to set up shop in our community since his brother-in-law opened his practice in the mid-1970s.  He also originated the first gastroenterology research program at the University of Manitoba and initiated the Fellowship training program in Gastroenterology at the University of Manitoba in 1995.
Charles Bernstein is best known as the doctor to go to for patients suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – conditions such as colitis and ileitis.  He notes that there has long been a high incidence of IBD within our Jewish community.
“We are not sure why that is,” he says, noting that cases of IBD are also growing in China and India where the condition was virtually non-existent decades before.
“Our research focuses on the gut microbiome,” he says.  “There are more bugs in your bowel than cells in your body,” he points out.  “The bugs keep us in homeostasis so that bugs in the food we eat can’t overwhelm our bowels.”
He and his researchers focus on studying diet and drugs to determine how best to control the illness – which may also be related to colon cancer.
A change in diet may help, he notes, and there has been some experimentation with stool transplants – but there are no clear answers yet, he reports.
“We continue to work on emerging therapies and new drugs,” he says.  “Intravenous and subcutaneous biological drugs seem to be most effective in complicated cases.”
The number of patients suffering from IBD in Manitoba continues to remain steady at about 8,500 with around 350-450 new cases diagnosed very year, he notes.  The new cases are generally younger people.
He reports that he and his research team are currently part of an interdisciplinary project that is looking into answers for chronic diseases such as IBD, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Tenth Annual Kick-Butt Run Scheduled for Saturday, September 16 

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