Dr. George N. Papanicolaou Feted by HMS

NEW YORK – The Hellenic Medical Society of New York (HMSNY) presented its annual Dr. George N. Papanicolaou Symposium, paying tribute to the renowned scientist whose breakthroughs included the Pap-test, and honoring Dr. Christos Coutifaris, who was the keynote speaker.

The event took place at Weill Cornell Medical College, which was also a sponsor along with the HMS, the Panevoikos Society of America and the Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies of North America (FHMSNA)

After a reception in the faculty lounge the guests were welcomed in the auditorium by Dr. Spyros Mezitis, FHMSNA president.

Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, representing Archbishop Demetrios, offered the innovation and greetings followed from Dr. Nicholas M.E. Mezitis, the president of HMSNY, who also noted the Society’s efforts to help the people of Greece, and Dr. Thomas Caputo, Dr. Katherine Hajjar, and Rana Hoda representing Cornell Weill.

Each of the speakers touched upon part of Dr. Papanicolaou’s legacy and Soula Podara, president of Panevoikos shined a spotlight on the pivotal role of Mary Papanicolaou as both devoted spouse and lab assistant.

Hoda declared that Dr. Papanicolaou’s pioneering work in detecting cervical cancer “changed the face of medicine.” She said the Pap Test is the most widely known medical epithet in the world,” and that it is considered the world’s most effective cancer screening test.

Demosthenes Triantafillou, the president of Greek Teachers Association – Prometheus, also spoke about the legacy of Dr. Papanicolou, whose last NYU lecture he attended. He learned from him about the role of serendipity. “If you are a scientist you will never know what you will ultimately discover…so “patience and perseverance are the key…never give up,” Triantafillou said.

Prometheus ran an essay contest for Greek and public school students about Dr. Papanicolaou’s contributions, which they are endeavoring to have taught in those schools. Despina Kolokithas of Alma Bank, presented the $250 donated by the bank to the students who wrote the top five essays.

Dr. Coutifaris began his keynote address by declaring “how incredibly moved and honored I am,” by the honor.

He specializes in fertility treatments and his speech addressed research that is being done to better understand what causes many babies conceived through in-vitro fertilization to be born prematurely or with low birth weight, which have very serious long term consequences.

He emphasized the importance of directing more resources to prevention, which his research illuminates by showing the importance of the early processes of embryo implantation and placenta development.

Before Tao Sun, Ph.D, an associate professor at Cornell Weill, spoke about “MicroRNA Function in the Control of Brain Size and Mood Disorders,” he noted the common commitment to family values in the Chinese- and Greek-American communities.

Dr. Vasilki Saitas made the final presentation, “Is the Pap Test REALLY replaceable?” After she described the Pap and other tests, she expressed her opinion that newer tests designed to also detect the HPV virus should still be performed in conjunction with Pap tests.

HMS scholarship distributions now exceed $150,000, and this year’s recipient is Konstantinos Aprilakis, who will graduate from Weill Cornell Medical School this month. He expressed his deep appreciation for the support of his family, especially his late father, to HMS, and for the guidance he received from Dr. Nicholas Mezitis.