Tuesday April 26, 2011
A prolific man of medicine and a war hero. There's no other way to describe the life of Dr. Gerald L. Haidak, whose penchant for helping others -- especially those in the medical field -- fueled a career that seemed to know no boundaries.
Haidak, among his many accomplishments, helped advance the medical treatment policies at Berkshire Medical Center. On the teaching staff at the newly formed UMass Medical Center in Amherst in 1971, he enhanced the studies of the students in the program by initiating a program that rotated students through BMC in an effort to hasten the learning curve.
This wasn't something new for Haidak, who did the same thing about a decade earlier when he set up a teaching program at the facility that resulted from the merger of Pittsfield General and St. Luke's hospitals.
Haidak also was on staff at Albany Medical College for 29 years. His involvement with the teaching of medicine and his interest in the students who chose that career path were somewhat legendary in this region. It was written that Haidak cared deeply about the art and science of medical practice and that he devoted himself to medical schools and their students.
Haidak's involvement at BMC heightened in 1984 when he became associate dean for medical education. He also was named professor of surgery and cell biology.
His war record was equally impressive. During World War II he was a battalion combat surgeon who landed at Normandy on D-Day and in 1943 was part of the Allied beach assaults in Italy at Salerno and Anzio.
Haidak was wounded on the beach of Normandy. Among other military honors, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star of Valor and the Purple Heart. He was recalled during the Korean War and left the Army Reserves with the rank of major.
Born in Patterson, N.J., he earned medical degrees at the University of Mississippi, Chicago Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania. He was married to the former Zelda Shapins; the couple had four children.
Haidak died in April 2000 at the age of 83.