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Anesthesiologist pioneered simulation tools

Tony Raap
| Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Dr. Peter Winter
Dr. Peter Winter

Dr. Peter M. Winter, a renowned anesthesiologist who helped pioneer the use of simulation technology in medical training, died Saturday, May 14, 2016, according to family members.

He was 81.

Dr. Winter chaired the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine for about 17 years.

Anesthesia-related deaths at UPMC hospitals fell to almost zero during his tenure. He also founded UPMC's Human Simulation Center, which uses robotic equipment to re-create real-life medical scenarios to train doctors.

In 2004, the health giant renamed the center the Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education and Research.

“That whole field was new,” said Dr. Raymond Planinsic, a UPMC anesthesiologist and former colleague of Dr. Winter's. “He was very instrumental in forming that (field).”

Dr. Winter was born in the Soviet Union, where his father was a professor, and grew up in Ithaca, N.Y. After a stint in the Army, he graduated from Cornell University and studied medicine at the University of Rochester in New York.

He decided to become an anesthesiologist “because of the clinical challenges and research opportunities,” said his son, Chris Winter of Portland, Ore.

After completing his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Winter joined the department of anesthesiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He left in 1979 to become head of Pitt's anesthesiology department.

Dr. Winter contributed more than 70 scientific articles to peer-reviewed scientific journals. He relinquished the department chair in 1996 but continued to mentor young anesthesiologists as a professor emeritus until he retired a few years ago.

“He was always outgoing and encouraging, a wonderful teacher and mentor,” Planinsic said.

In 2011, Dr. Winter moved to Issaquah, Wash. He enjoyed mountaineering. In the 1970s, he twice traveled to Nepal, where he hiked across Mt. Everest's base camp.

When his children were younger, he often took them sailing on his 37-foot sailboat.

“He loved his work, but he also loved spending time with his family and friends outdoors,” his son said. “That was very important to him.”

In addition to his son, Dr. Winter is survived by his daughters, Karin McCloskey of Sammamish, Wash., and Lia and Tori Winter, both of Pittsburgh.

A private memorial service will be held in June.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Alpine Club (www.americanalpineclub.org) or the Crag Law Center (www.crag.org).

Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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