Tributes: Harry Buncke Memorial
By Shirley Chan
Great men and women in history are remembered by generations because of their courage, wisdom, inventions and deeds that altered the course of history and mankind. Likewise, Dr. Harry Buncke has changed medical history with his foresight, wisdom and the perseverance to strive for the impossible. But Dr. Buncke also has the humility and the passion that makes him a true giant.
Twenty years ago I came to work at Davies to gain experience with microsurgery and to work with the pioneer in the field. I met Dr. Buncke for the first time at the elevator going to Micro rounds. Famous as he was, I wasn’t expecting him to interact much with the staff. But to my amazement, he was warm and personable. As the elevator doors opened, he held the door open for others. When we got to the meeting, he poured coffee for the staff. I was not used to this treatment from coworkers, let alone the chief attending. Through the years I have learned a lot from him, not only clinically but also as a person. Dr. Buncke taught with patience and an open mind. He treated others with kindness, care and respect. That is humility.
I had the opportunity to lecture with him at the Philadelphia hand conference one year. Power Point was not around then and title slides had to be professionally made. I spent several weeks preparing my lectures. After we all arrived at the conference and had dinner, I excused myself to go through the slides one more time before the morning presentation. Dr. Buncke stayed to chat with his colleagues and I said “Oh you must be all ready for the lectures in the morning.” “Oh no”, he said,” I haven’t started but I have 30 lbs of slides with me. I will put something together when I go up to my room.” The next day he delivered brilliant lectures and went over case after case with such passion that the audience was listening in awe. How he did it was beyond me. It was his passion for microsurgery and ingenuity to reconstruct mangled hands that captured the audience. And it is because of this passion that the micro program and the hand therapy department developed to what it is today. I consider myself very fortunate to have had Dr. Buncke as my mentor. He is like a father figure to me. In that sense it is fitting that I share this poem with you in closing. This is a poem from an unknown author that was sent to me when I lost my own father.
Hold fast to your memories,
to all of the cherished moments of the past,
to the blessings and the laughter,
the joys and the celebrations,
the sorrow and the tears.
They all add up to a treasure of fond yesterdays
that you shared and spent together.
They keep the one you loved close to you
in spirit and thought.
The special moments and memories in your life will never change.
They will always be in your heart, today and forevermore.
Dr. Buncke will live on in our hearts and in our memories. Most important of all, he will live on through the thousands of hands that he has healed, and the tens of thousands more that will be healed because of what we have learned from him.