Erik A. Bergman, M.D.

June 16, 2012|By JANET HEIM |
  • Erik Bergman enjoyed time with his two grandsons, Christian Sperco and Gage Kenyon.
Submitted photo

Erik Bergman was a man who loved his family dearly, a man whose presence will be deeply missed this Father’s Day.

When Erik and Sheri Bergman married — they would have celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary June 13, just days after Erik’s death — their blended family included five children.

“We’ve had such a wonderful blended family. We’ve been blessed by that,” Sheri said. “Our family is so important to us — to him, to me — through the years.”

Erik has two daughters and one son, and Sheri a son and a daughter. There also are two grandsons, ages 2 and 1, with whom Erik loved spending time.

“He’s not my blood father, but I consider him my dad,” said Sheri’s son, Robert “Bobby” Kenyon. “He took us in as if we were born in his arms from day one.”

Erik was known in the community as a caring ophthalmologist and eye surgeon. He recently moved the Bergman Eye Center to a new building off Eastern Boulevard. The practice has been family-focused, with all of the children working there at some point, either as a summer job or after high school.

Sheri; Erik’s son, Mark Bergman; Bobby and his wife, Tiffany; and Sheri’s daughter, Victoria Kenyon, currently work for the center.

Mark said he didn’t know what he wanted to do for a career after graduating from Smithsburg High School, but since working “hand in hand” with his father as his first assist scrub technician for almost five years, he has decided to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“The way he was restoring vision through cataract surgery — it blew me away such a simple procedure could make such a huge difference,” Mark said. “At that point, that was when I decided to go to college with ophthalmology as an end goal.”

Mark will apply to medical schools and hopes to be accepted at Loma Linda University in California, the only Seventh-day Adventist university in the country and the one from which both Erik and his father, Arthur Bergman, M.D., an anesthesiologist, graduated.

“That was the thing. He never pushed us to medical school,” Mark said. “His advice was pick a path and to do it to the best of our ability.”

“He accepted everything you had an interest in,” said Erik’s daughter, Erin Bergman Sperco. “I knew whatever I was doing, he would be happy with.”

Erik’s untimely death has deepened Mark’s desire, though, with plans to return to Hagerstown to serve this community.

“He was the kind of physician who was always explaining what he was doing and why he was doing it,” Mark said. “I saw why he was so passionate about his work. I know his philosophy and way of caring for patients is extremely rare. To me and everyone else, that is what distinguished him from other doctors. It’s been an honor to work with him. Having that knowledge to go forward has been a blessing.”

“He was a great mentor for all the doctors and staff,” said Mark’s wife, Joane Bergman.

Erik grew up in Takoma Park, Md., and as a child, along with his parents and younger sister, Astrid, lived in Koza, Africa, for a time while their parents were medical missionaries. After completing his medical training, Erik began the Swazi Eye Centre in Swaziland, South Africa, where he spent three years as an eye surgeon missionary.

He joined Hagerstown Eye Specialists in Hagerstown in 1988, the year Mark was born.

“He came here basically because of the Seventh-day Adventist community here,” Sheri said.

In 2001, Erik started his own practice near what then was Washington County Hospital. Physician’s Surgery Center was added in 2008.

In the past 10 years, the practice grew from eight employees to 40 employees today, mainly by word of mouth and Erik’s reputation, the family said.

“Everybody looked up to him,” Bobby said.

Sheri’s training as a nurse with a management background in health care business was a good fit with Erik’s medical skills.

“We were a good team,” Sheri said. “We combined our visions and just went for it.”

The practice moved to its new location in December 2011, the building very much a reflection of Erik. His love for aviation — he’s been a licensed pilot since he was a teenager — is evident in the design, with the entrance resembling the entrance to an airport. He dreamed of having a saltwater aquarium, which is included.

Erik and Sheri were set up on a blind date by mutual friends, even though she was living in Chattanooga, Tenn., and he was in Hagerstown.

Sheri grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and her parents lived in Hagerstown and knew Erik from church.

Erik drove to Tennessee over Labor Day weekend in 1998 and they were married less than a year later. He proposed on Valentine’s Day, and every year they celebrated their engagement with a trip or an overnight, alternating each year who planned it.

“He planned so many beautiful, romantic trips for me,” Sheri said.

Erik found peace working in the garden of the Bergmans’ home east of Hagerstown. He would lose track of time and would need to be reminded to eat and drink, often working eight hours or more at a clip, when time permitted.

“I’m going to miss seeing him out in the yard in his silly farmer’s hat,” Erin said.

In February, after a trip with Sheri to California, Erik was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma, a type of highly malignant cancer that most commonly arises in the lung. The rare and aggressive cancer started in the prostate in Erik’s case.

“He always did screenings,” Erin said. “His PSAs were always normal. This was not your average prostate cancer.”

Sheri said despite Erik’s poor prognosis, they remained hopeful that treatment would work.

“We were hopeful to the end that he would be healed,” Sheri said. “There were so many people praying for him, but we would accept God’s will.”

She hopes to start a fund in Erik’s memory that would be used to provide eye services for those who can’t afford them.

“He was a very generous person,” Sheri said. “He did things for people regardless of whether they could pay or not.”

She knows of cases where Erik made house calls and provided free services and surgeries for patients who didn’t have the money. 

“He was an awesome, awesome man,” Sheri said.

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Erik A. Bergman, M.D., who died June 9 at the age of 59. His obituary was published in the June 12 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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