A legacy driven by the spirit of learning
It is with deep appreciation that we reflect on the inspirational life of Dr. Igor Bitenc, who passed away January 5, 2014.
Dr. Bitenc was born in 1925 in Slovenia and came to Canada in 1953. The following year, he began his residency at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital and then elected to stay in Quebec to practice as an orthopaedic surgeon. It was in 1982 that he offered to sponsor an annual Traveling Fellowship for a young orthopaedic surgeon from Yugoslavia.
The Fellowship, named in memory of Dr. Bitenc’s late mother, Mrs. Anica Bitenc, was funded by an annual endowment from Dr. Bitenc and managed by the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation.
In 2007, Dr. Bitenc commented, “When I started the Traveling Fellowship, it was difficult for Fellows from Yugoslavia to travel and thus learn from colleagues in other countries. While that has changed in recent years, I believe it is still important to support and give surgeons in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia an opportunity to learn from colleagues abroad.”
Through his generosity, the Canadian surgical community remains inspired by the gracious commitment made to helping fellow surgeons. The two-week fellowship has positively impacted many surgeons, ultimately resonating into benefits for citizens of the communities served.
The first Fellow, Dr. Ranko Bilic from Yugoslavia, completed his Canadian itinerary in 1985. Since then, 22 Fellows from the former Yugoslavia have participated in the program.
Dr. Bitenc has ensured the Fellowship will continue for many years with a gracious bequest gift of $300,000.
Participating Fellows have commented on the benefits of learning from the techniques and treatments used in Canada, as well as on the kindness of the Canadian host surgeons and cities.