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Dr. Jacobus W. Mostert, ex-Roswell Park chief of anesthesia August 1926 -- Oct. 10, 2008

Dr. Jacobus W. Mostert, a former Roswell Park Cancer Institute chief of anesthesia and a renowned pioneer in the field, died Friday in his native Cape Town, South Africa, after a brief illness. He was 82.

Dr. Mostert was one of eight children of an Afrikaner family whose members included South Africa's first poet laureate and the founder of the University of Pretoria. He graduated from Witwatersrand University's medical school at age 20 and worked at several hospitals in South Africa and Zimbabwe, including Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

There he assisted Dr. Christiaan Barnard in the world's first heart transplants. He trained further in London, becoming a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

He participated in other fellowships throughout the United States and Europe, including a stint at Roswell Park from 1966 to 1970. He worked at the University of Chicago before returning to Pretoria in 1980. He finished his career there as distinguished professor emeritus.

Dr. Mostert wrote more than 200 scholarly papers and served as an editor of several journals. His son-in-law, former Deputy County Executive Bruce L. Fisher, noted his unique status as a convert to Catholicism who defied South African law by secretly admitting nonwhite heart transplant patients to the segregated hospital -- all in defiance of apartheid laws.

"He had a playful, boyish, in-your-face manner but was a deadly serious achiever," Fisher recalled.

Dr. Mostert's wife, Maire Imelda Rigney Mostert, died in 1996.

He is survived by a daughter, Dr. Michelle Mostert, a physician and member of the University at Buffalo Medical School faculty; two sisters, Marie and Este; and a son, Guy.

A memorial service will be Wednesday in Cape Town.


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