NEW YORK – Dr. Ioannis Zervoudakis was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award and Dr. Katherine Hajjar, the keynote speaker, was aslo honored at the annual Dr. George Papanicolaou Award Symposium of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York on May 13.
Dr. Spiros Mezitis, president of the Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies, which sponsored the event, acknowledged the presence of dignitaries like Amb. George Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece, and Greek Consul Manos Koubarakis.
Additional sponsors included Weill Cornell Medical College, the Panevoikos Society of America, and the Prometheus – Greek Teachers Association, and the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater NY and Evangelia Tsavaris, the HMS administrator, was thanked for again coordinating the event.
HMS President Dr. George Liakeas evoked nods of agreement when he said “This is room filled with doctors, who are proud people, but there are a handful of people who make us proud, and I am proud to be here among them.”
The guests were also proud and felt joy when Demosthenes Triantafillou, President of Prometheus, introduced the recipients of the scholarship Prometheus presents to the winners of its Greek essay contest: Stella Angelakakis, who is in CUNY’s prestigious Sophie Davis 6-year medical program, George Doulos, Fotis Eleftheriadis, Ioulia Kokkosi, Nikolaos Kostaras, and Asimina Pappas.
Liakeas noted scholarships are HMS’ priority. On that night the Society gave $5000 to Cornell Weill, in addition to funding a scholarship that is awarded if possible, to a Hellene.
Dr. Frank Chervenack, Chairman of the Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Cornell Weill, greeted the guests and declared “I am not Greek, but we take great pride when we pass the statue of Dr. Papanicolaou, who is one of the great treasures of this institution.”
Chervenack called up the staff of his department when he presented an award to Zervoudakis, whom he called “an obstetrician’s obstetrician,” and noted he was a pioneer of the “fetus as patient” concept.
Zervoudakis, who seems as down to earth as a man of his accomplishments can be, said “I wish I could stand up for you more than you stand for me today,” and went on to praise the school for the mentors it provided him and its contributions to medicine.
He gave a brief and gracious thank you speech when he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award as his proud wife, Rallou Zervoudakis, who earned a degree in civil engineering at Columbia University, looked on.
Anthony Ringos, representing the Panevoikos Society – Papanicolaou is from the island of Evoia – echoed Chervenack when he presented the biography the great scientist whose invention, the pap smear, has saved or improves the lives of millions through the years and whose pioneering work in the broader field of screening and early detection of cancer and other diseases though analysis of abnormal cells help revolutionize medicine.
Triantafillou also spoke about the life and achievements of Papanicolaou, whom he deeply revered and had the good fortune to meet, but he also noted the significant contributions of his wife, Mary, to his work.
In her keynote address Hajjar, Associate Dean for Research, Professor of Pediatrics, Brine Family Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at Weill Cornell Medical College, noted the affinities between her career in cell-based research and Papanicolaou’s, including their common “excitement of discovery,” and the combination of “sensitivity and toughness” displayed by standouts in their fields.
Her own discoveries stem from her work with endothelial cells, cells which line the interior surface of blood vessels. Her research also has diabetes implications.
Paul A. Elgert, Cytopathology Supervisor, Department of Pathology NYU Langone School of Medicine with Affiliation at Bellevue Hospital Center, the second speaker in the event’s scientific program, addressed the evolution of cervical cancer techniques like the Pap test with his talk on “‘Cervical Cancer Screening: Changes in Screening Guidelines and Screening Rates.”
He spoke about the current debate over screening guidelines and the growing importance of HPV testing. The inevitable role of litigation and lawyers in the process was also noted.
Elgert also offered “Brief Comments on the Dr. Papanicolaou nominations for the Nobel Prize,” and noted that between 1948 and 1953 the latter was nominated 18 times.