Marking an extraordinary centennial of leadership, Memorial Sloan Kettering celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Head and Neck Service — the world’s oldest — in 2014.
“The centennial of any program is a once-in-a-lifetime event that only a few fortunate ones are able to celebrate,” says Jatin Shah, Chief of the Head and Neck Service since 1992. “This is our year to celebrate.”
To commemorate the milestone, MSK held a special program paying tribute to the service’s history during the joint conference of the Fifth World Congress of the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies and the Annual Meeting of the American Head and Neck Society, which was held July 26 through 30 in New York City.
The centennial celebration’s opening ceremony on July 27 featured keynote addresses from Dr. Shah, MSK President and CEO Craig B. Thompson, and actor Michael Douglas, who was treated for tongue cancer at MSK. The celebration also included a reception and scientific program on July 28 with presentations about the latest research.
In all, there were more than 3,200 conference attendees from 91 countries 500 oral presentations, and 1,300 posters. Keynote speakers over the four days of the conference included Patrick Gullane, MD, and Ralph Gilbert, MD, from the University of Toronto; Antonio Fojo, MD, from the National Cancer Institute; Vincent Gregoire, MD, from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium; Allan H. “Bud” Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball; Jose Baselga, MD, Physician-in-Chief of MSK; and J. Silvio Gutkind, PhD, from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The program also included 44 panel discussions on frontiers in head and neck cancer treatment and research.
Established by James Ewing in 1914, the Head and Neck Service is the institution’s oldest subspecialty and has established global standards of care. Among other accomplishments, Dr. Ewing discovered a form of malignant bone tumor, or sarcoma, which now bears his name.
Henry Janeway, the service’s first chief, oversaw the birth of pioneering work on ablative surgery — procedures designed to remove malignant tumors while sparing nearby normal tissues. Throughout the first 100 years, trainees from around the world came to Memorial Hospital to learn the latest techniques in head and neck surgery.
Today the service continues to be at the forefront of developing advanced surgical techniques that preserve function and restore critical organs. It now has eight surgeons who perform more than 1,800 operations each year, making it the largest head and neck service in the country in terms of patient volume.
In his address, Dr. Thompson said, “Just imagine the boldness, the optimism — the valor — that it took 100 years ago to create a service designed to tackle the enormously complex set of problems that we know of as head and neck cancers, particularly when so little was known about the nature of these diseases. Today, so much has changed. You who have come together at this Fifth World Congress are at the vanguard of developing surgical techniques and combined modality therapies that have saved lives and preserved function.”
He also praised Dr. Shah: “Not only is Jatin a gifted surgeon with boundless compassion for his patients, but he has — for more than two decades — provided invaluable leadership for Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Head and Neck Service, offering guidance and inspiration to his colleagues.”
In his remarks, Mr. Douglas commended the care he received at MSK from Dr. Shah, Head and Neck Oncology Service Chief David Pfister, radiation oncologist Nancy Lee, and others on the medical team. He noted that doctors worldwide continue to come to the MSK Head and Neck Service to learn about the latest techniques “because like any great science, medicine depends on the transfer and dissemination of knowledge to drive progress.”
“For a century, Memorial Sloan Kettering has led the way in head and neck oncology,” he added. “That century, I can say, saved my life.”
As part of the opening ceremonies, Dr. Shah also announced the formal petition to designate July 27 as World Head and Neck Cancer Day. This collaborative effort has the support of both the World Health Organization and the Union for International Cancer Control to recognize the day and join the international movement to increase awareness and promote education and training in the diagnosis, treatment, outcomes, and research of head and neck cancer. The petition is available here: http://www.ahns2014.org/petition/