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Guest Viewpoints

Dr. Papanicolaou, Medical Researcher, Immigrant, Hellene, HMSNY Co-Founder 

February 12, 2024
By Dr. Spyros Elias Mezitis

Dr. George N. Papanicolaou (1883-1962), who was recently featured in the National Herald’s Periodiko, is a great figure in the world of modern medicine who enlightens scientific researchers and saves millions of women from cervical cancer with the Pap test. Dr. Papanicolaou demonstrated with the microscope, in collaboration with his wife, the PAP diagnostic test and published it in 1928. He rose through all the university ranks, was a Professor of Anatomy at Cornell Medical College, trained many medical researchers, and received the highest U.S. Medical Award, the Dr. Albert Lasker Award. Dr. Papanicolaou was one of the founding members of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York in 1936.

In 1979, in his honor, his bust was created under the auspices of Dr. Theofilos Deligiannidis of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York. In 1997, the late President Dr. Antonios Vasilas funded the planting of a tree from Kos, the island of the Father of Medicine Hippocrates, in the courtyard of Cornell Medical College. In 1998, President Dr. George Yatrakis launched the Dr. Papanicolaou Annual Scholarship, bestowed on a student of Hellenic origin.

In 2000, under my Presidency, the Annual Medical Conferences were established under the auspices of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York in collaboration with Cornell Medical College and the Departments of Anatomy and Gynecology, and the Euboean Society. Every year a distinguished physician who may have done research related to the findings of Dr. Papanicolaou receives the Grand Award. Bright examples are Dr. Roy Vagelos in 2018 who launched the use of statins for hyperlipidemia, the German Nobel laureate Dr. Zur Hausen in 2010 who proved that HPV causes cervical cancer, and the late Cornell Professor and Associate Director of Gynecology Dr. Ioannis Zervoudakis in 2013. With the continuation of the Annual Conferences at Cornell, where Dr. Papanicolaou had a 50-year career, the historic Hellenic Medical Society of New York significantly supports the conferences not only to honor the achievements of Dr. Papanicolaou but also to give an impetus to the young generation to follow and distinguish themselves in Medicine. Regarding the strong personality of Dr. Papanicolaou, dozens of high school students of Hellenic origin are invited to describe his character, accomplishments, and what this means for them in an essay written in Greek. In May, during the Annual Symposium, they are awarded monetary prizes assembled by the prominent teacher at Hellenic schools, Dr. Demosthenes Triantafillou.  Students tour the Cornell Anatomy Lab chaired by Dr. Papanicolaou and learn about the electron microscope. They end up at the Bust of Dr. Papanicolaou which graces the entrance of Weill Cornell Medical College and is the only statue of a Doctor at Cornell.

This simple man breathed life into Medicine, Hellenism, and Humanity. It would be a welcome project to create a Chair for Dr. George N. Papanicolaou at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Dr. Spyros Elias Mezitis, former President of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York, is the organizer of the Annual Dr. George Papanicolaou Conferences on behalf of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York.

Dr. Papanicolaou Symposium Committee Members:

Dr. Spyros Elias Mezitis, Dr. Frank Chervenak, Dr. Demosthenis Triantafillou, Dr. Lorraine Chrysomallis, Dr. Stella Lymberis, Dr. Antonia Kolokathis, Dr. Eleni Gouzoulis, and Dr. Antonios Gasparis.


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