Born in Lwow, Poland, Mieczyslaw Finster emigrated to the United States in 1957, the same year he received a medical degree from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. He completed an internship at New York’s Flushing Hospital in 1958 and then trained as Resident in Anesthesiology at Presbyterian Hospital. Two years later, Dr. Finster joined Columbia’s faculty, first as Research Fellow in the Department of Anatomy and then, successively, as Instructor and Associate in Anesthesiology. He has held numerous Columbia University and Presbyterian Hospital appointments since then. Named Professor of Anesthesiology in 1975 and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1978, he has also served as Vice-Chairman and Acting Chairman of Columbia’s Department of Anesthesiology and as Acting Director of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center’s Anesthesiology Service.
Dr. Finster has dedicated his life’s work to protecting the delicate relationship between maternal and fetal health. Paradoxically, the two interests may diverge. “What is best for the mother may harm the child,” he says, “and what helps the child could jeopardize the mother.” In more than 200 publications, including articles, books and book chapters, abstracts and letters to editors, Dr. Finster explores critical questions about maternal/fetal health and well being. His findings address issues that could affect any woman due to give birth. Among them: the management of anesthesia for cesarean sections, resuscitation of newborn infants, multiple birth pregnancy and delivery, the transfer and distribution of anesthesia and other drugs from placenta to the unborn child, and the influence of maternal psychological stress on the fetus.
Throughout his career, Dr. Finster has championed pain relief for women during labor and delivery – even when it was less than fashionable to do so. His views, supported by basic and clinical research outcomes, have come to be accepted through much of the world.
A past president of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology, Dr. Finster serves as editor of Progress in Anesthesiology and of the Journal of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. His many honors include the E.A. Rovenstine Memorial Lectureship at the 1993 Annual Post Graduate Assembly of the New York State Society of Anesthesiologists, the Fred Hehre Lectureship at the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology’s 1997 annual meeting, as well as many Visiting Professorships and Lectureships presented throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Israel. In 2007, Dr. Finster became Emeritus Professor.