Remembering Dr. Bernice Krafchik
Pediatric dermatology was a vital mission and the life’s work of Dr. Bernice Krafchik, who died on Dec. 16, 2020, in Toronto. Dr. Krafchik was 82 years old.
"I loved everything about it. I loved the children. I felt that you could tell their personalities just from interacting with them. Some were very serious, others playful, and were even curious. It was wonderful," she told THE CHRONICLE OF SKIN & ALLERGY in a 2019 interview.
Though she had retired from practicing medicine, she still lectured into her 80s at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto, and other venues. Her father, also a dermatologist, inspired her to pursue the field, which would eventually lead her to launch a full-time dermatology clinic at SickKids.
Dr. Krafchik was born in South Africa on May 9, 1938. She was married to Stan AvRuskin for 40 years until his death in 2006, and they had four children; Hayley (Phil), Adam (Anne), Vanessa (James), and Gillian (Giorgos), and as well as eight grandchildren.
"She was a huge presence on the Canadian dermatology scene. She was incredibly interested in teaching and she tended to take people under her wing," said Dr. Laurie Parsons.
Despite her and her husband’s busy schedules, they always sat down as a family for dinner, which she fondly remembered.
In 1970, after moving to Toronto, she worked with the dermatologist Dr. Murray Williams, who was a great mentor to her. In turn, she was a mentor to many.
When she began in dermatology, there were very few pediatric dermatologists and few women, Dr. Krafchik told THE CHRONICLE in the earlier interview.
Dr. Elena Pope, head of pediatric dermatology at SickKids, met Dr. Krafchik in 1996 and had been a friend ever since. Dr. Pope was training as a resident and became Dr. Krafchik’s fellow in 2000. In an interview with THE CHRONICLE, Dr. Pope said that Dr. Krafchik was instrumental in her decision to pursue pediatric dermatology as a career and stay in an academic position. She described Dr. Krafchik as a "connector."
"[She had a] deep interest in people, new and old, strangers or friends. [She was] generous with her time and advice, quirky, a lover of good food, consummate host and cook, and a voracious reader," said Dr. Pope.
Dr. Pope said that she most fondly remembers Dr. Krafchik’s generosity and her humility despite her outstanding achievements. Dr. Krafchik loved shoes and was always showing off her new purchases, said Dr. Pope.
"Every time I was celebrating a new milestone in my career, she would tell everybody ‘Everything she knows, I taught her!’ with fondness and pride," said Dr. Pope.
"She was one of a kind, a giant in the field of pediatric dermatology, a dear friend and will be deeply missed," she said.
Dr. Laurie Parsons, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Calgary, met Dr. Krafchik while a dermatology student in the late 1980s.
"She was a huge presence on the Canadian dermatology scene. She was incredibly interested in teaching and she tended to take people under her wing," said Dr. Parsons.
Dr. Parsons described Dr. Krafchik as an icon of pediatric dermatology in Canada, ever-present at Canadian Dermatology Association meetings. Dr. Parsons described the annual events as reunions between Dr. Krafchik and the many dermatologists with whom she trained and worked.
"I remember how good she was with patients and how much they loved seeing Dr. Bernice," said Dr. Parsons.
Dr. Krafchik will be remembered by many as a doctor, teacher, lecturer, clinician and mentor, said Dr. Perla Lansang, an assistant professor and full-time staff dermatologist in the Division of Dermatology, University of Toronto.
"And yes, she was all of that. She introduced me to the world of pediatric dermatology, but she also introduced me to Hua Sang Lobster. She taught me clinical pearls, but she also taught me how to make marinated goat cheese," Dr. Lansang said.
"The proof of a well-lived life is to have changed so many. You have changed us all. For that, we will always be grateful. May we all do you proud," said Dr. Lansang, addressing Dr. Krafchik.
Recently, The Society for Pediatric Dermatology (SPD) honoured Dr. Krafchik, one of the society’s early members and a past president, by creating an award in her name.
"The proof of a well-lived life is to have changed so many. You have changed us all. For that, we will always be grateful. May we all do you proud," said Dr. Perla Lansang, addressing Dr. Krafchik.
The Bernice Krafchik Excellence in Service Award acknowledges outstanding volunteer contributions to the organization.
Dr. Krafchik hosted the first SPD annual meeting held in Canada in 1981 before becoming the society’s president in 1986. She also helped to organize the 1992 World Congress of Pediatric Dermatology held in Toronto.
A piece of advice Dr. Krafchik handed down to the next generation of female dermatologists was: "Love what you do."
"Have a goal and have persistence in pursuing your goal. I’m not particularly smart or anything like that but I’m very persistent," Dr. Krafchik told THE CHRONICLE. "When you’re persistent you can get to the basis of what’s upsetting your patient."
This tribute was prepared by Cory Perla for THE CHRONICLE OF SKIN & ALLERGY