Dr. Ben Pansky, an early — and longtime — faculty member at the Medical College of Ohio who was co-author and illustrator of widely known references on human anatomy, died Thursday in ProMedica Toledo Hospital. He was 90.
Health problems he dealt with for several years worsened in recent weeks, his son, Jon Pansky, said.
Dr. Pansky stayed busy. Although retired from teaching, he still had an office in the department of surgery at what is now the University of Toledo’s college of medicine and life sciences. A children’s book he wrote awaits a publisher, his son said, and he completed an outline of another. And he was pleased to learn about two years ago that a series of anatomy books he co-wrote and illustrated were to be translated to Chinese, Greek, Japanese, Spanish, and Turkish.
“He had a tremendous will to live, because he said he had so much more to do,” his son said.
The first edition of his best-known volume, Review of Gross Anatomy, preceded his arrival in 1970 at MCO. “The Little Red Book,” as students called it, featured his diagrams — more than 1,000 illustrations depicting most major and minor human anatomical structures, as then-Blade science editor Michael Woods noted in 1973, “everything from the abductor hallucis muscle in the sole of the foot to the zygomatic bones in the front of the skull.”
Dr. Pansky drew the diagrams over five years — working nights, weekends, and holidays. He wanted students to have a simplified yet three-dimensional view of the body.
“In fact, most books tend to oversimply the illustrations, and this gives a misconception of the complex structures of the human body, whereby the student fails to appreciate fully its beauty and function,” Dr. Pansky said in 1973.
He was one of the first professors to be honored with a Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching and received at least 11 of them, UT reported in 2016 — including as an emeritus professor. In 1979, he was one of two MCO faculty members to be named a “most valuable” professor by second-year students.
“The classrooms were always jam-packed when he was teaching,” his son said. “He would talk conversationally. He was approachable and loved the direct contact with students.”
His technique stuck with students.
“I would tell students to put down their pens and listen and watch,” Dr. Pansky told the UT News in 2016. “Then I would take them on a tour of a part of the body by drawing it on the chalkboard in three dimensions with fluorescent chalk under UV lighting. We would discuss each structure as the image took shape and relate it to the clinical perspective.”
Dr. Donna Woodson, a member of MCO’s first graduating class, wrote about Dr. Pansky’s “black light show” in A Community of Scholars: Recollections of the Early Years of the Medical College of Ohio.
“His ability to lecture while completing anatomical sketches using both hands and with colored chalk was inspiring,” Dr. Woodson wrote.
He was born Feb. 18, 1928, in Milwaukee to Leah and Abraham Pansky. He received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He got a job with a hospital in New York City and went to medical school.
“He wanted to do more. He was always looking to achieve,” his son said. Dr. Pansky received his medical degree in 1968 from the Columbia University college of physicians and surgeons. He was an associate professor at New York Medical College when he received a call about the new medical college in Toledo.
“He was very proud to be part of something that was beginning and developing,” his son said. “He loved creating, and he loved teaching and preparing others to embark on their careers. He’s enriched the lives of so many.”
He was a member of The Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim in Sylvania Township.
He and the former Julie Gossin married May 3, 1953. She died March 3, 2004.
Surviving are his son, Jon Pansky; sister, Esther Kahn, and brother, Louis Pansky.
Friends will be received from 4-6 p.m. Sunday in the Robert H. Wick/Wisniewski Funeral Home, where funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Monday.
The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor’s choice.
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