Physicians honor a renowned Sinai doctor and teacher.
Membership in the Sherman Society doesn’t require a lengthy application, annual dues or celebrity status. All that’s required is a willingness to celebrate “a very special person who trained so many of the Jewish OB-GYN physicians in Metro Detroit,” explains Danny Benjamin, M.D., one of the residents trained by the late Alfred I. Sherman, M.D., who chaired Sinai Hospital’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
For the past three years, Benjamin has organized a dinner that gathers former Sinai Hospital OB-GYN residents and attending physicians, along with Wayne State University-affiliated physicians, whose lives were touched by Sherman — a leading clinician, teacher and innovator in gynecology and obstetrics in Detroit.
His students are practicing at the DMC, Beaumont and Providence hospitals locally, and are in other Michigan cities and scattered throughout the country, says Benjamin, who now heads the OB-GYN department at DMC Huron-Valley Sinai Hospital.
The recent dinner is coordinated with the annual Alfred I. Sherman Memorial Lecture, part of the WSU School of Medicine OB-GYN Grand Rounds, an annual educational program for medical students and physicians. Dr. Mark I. Evans, OB-GYN professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, formerly chair of the WSU OB-GYN department and a nationally known expert in reproductive genetics, was the 2018 lecturer — a testament to Sherman’s reputation, according to Sherman Society members.
According to Jerrold “Jerry” Weinberg, M.D., Sherman came to Sinai Hospital in 1967 as its first full-time chief of obstetrics/gynecology — previously a part-time-position. Weinberg was one of his first group of residents.
“He was a wonderful, gentle person with Jewish values and a cancer specialist who saved lives,” Weinberg says. According to a 1992 article in the Detroit Free Press, Sherman was the first board-certified gynecologic oncologist in Michigan and only one of 10 statewide at that time.
Sherman was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and attended medical school at the University of Toronto. Anti-Semitism in Canada limited opportunities for Jewish physicians, so after a year of training in New York, he went to Washington University Medical School for further training and later joined its medical staff, working in St. Louis for 20 years.
As Sinai’s chief of OB-GYN, Sherman set high standards but was very available to help his residents. Weinberg remembers Dr. Sherman’s use of the Socratic method, constantly questioning his students to motivate them to think and solve problems. As a young doctor, Weinberg remembers being very nervous about giving a presentation at a national meeting until Sherman surprised him by showing up to provide support.
At Sinai, Sherman continued his research and innovations to improve gynecologic and obstetrical care. Sinai became known for pioneering the use of progesterone to prevent miscarriages and, with Dr. Milton Goldrath, he developed one of the premier programs in the country using laser therapy for a variety of gynecologic conditions.
His devotion to teaching, research and his patients meant that he worked long hours, but his daughter, Merle Schwartz, says he always came home for dinner and put the children to bed, and then went back to work for several hours. Schwartz and her husband, Ron, attended the dinner, along with another of the Shermans’ children, Dr. Larry Sherman, a surgeon, and his wife, Caroline.
“Dr. Sherman was an amazing mentor, incredibly patient with high expectations for all of the Sinai residents. He was a full professor at Wayne State University with talented residents and attending staff, and there was a close bond between everyone at Sinai,” says Michael Salesin, M.D.
Leonard Sudakin, M.D., another Sherman Society member, describes Sherman as “very haimish with no airs about him. He had a wealth of knowledge and was the final word on medical and ethical issues.”
Sherman practiced medicine until 1985 and died at age 91 in 2012. His wife, Sandy, attended the first Sherman Society dinner but died in 2016 prior to the second event.
Sinai Hospital of Detroit was acquired by the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) in 1997 and was subsequently merged with DMC’s Grace Hospital. The Sinai Hospital building was demolished; it is now the site of Renaissance High School.