P&S Journal: Winter 1995, Vol.15, No.1
Professorship Will Honor Pioneer in Colorectal Surgery
By Peter Wortsman
Colon cancer is the second most deadly condition in the United States, and Kenneth Forde'59 is among its most vigilant and effective combatants. A surgeon's surgeon to his peers, he is also an inspirational teacher (voted "Distinguished Teacher of the Year" by the P&S Class of 1994) who spurred on a generation of young M.D.s to follow in his footsteps and live up to his high standards of research-oriented clinical care at major academic medical centers across the country.
And to his patients, he is that rare phenomenon, a surgeon with heart whose kindness is on par with the quality of his care. Such a reputation will honor him in the form of a named professorship, the highest honor a medical school and a profession can pay one of its own.
The development campaign, boosted by a major gift from an anonymous donor, has raised nearly half the money needed to fund the professorship. The campaign has benefited from the volunteer activity of Presbyterian Hospital Trustee William F. Laporte, who has worked diligently to encourage others to participate in the project, and Dr. James Guthrie, president of the Research Foundation of the Society of Colorectal Surgeons, the group that suggested and provided initial support for a Forde chair.
The author of nine book chapters and countless papers on gastrointestinal and endoscopic surgery and the causes and prevention of colon cancer, Dr. Forde helped pioneer the use of endoscopy as a diagnostic and surgical tool (an effective alternative to invasive surgery) in the management of intestinal and colonic bleeding. He was a member of the research team that first recognized the increased prevalence of tumors in first-degree relatives of colon cancer patients and consequently recommended routine colonoscopy screening in this high-risk group. His research also includes collaborative efforts with basic scientists to develop molecular markers for colon cancer.
Dr. Guthrie characterizes his old friend and colleague of more than 30 years as a "gentleman of science." The two were chief residents together at Bellevue, where Dr. Guthrie came to appreciate Dr. Forde's special qualities. "He was never ruffled by the most horrific situations, always in command, and that gave confidence to everyone else."
Another member of the colorectal research foundation, Dr. Phillip Caushaj, chief of surgery at the Medical Center of Central Massachusetts and associate professor of surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was Dr. Forde's first resident in colon and rectal surgery at Columbia. "He was the endoscopist who could always pass the scope when everyone else failed," Dr. Caushaj recalls. "We called him 'The Master!'"
Dr. Jose Guillem, another former resident at Columbia and now a faculty member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, credits Dr. Forde with igniting his nascent interest in research. "He instilled the drive in young people like myself to actually collaborate on clinical problems, thereby planting the seed of future inquiry," says Dr. Guillem. "Perseverance, my boy!" Dr. Guillem says in imitating his mentor. "Everybody should have a Ken Forde in his life."
The same sentiment is shared by a former patient's wife, the celebrated therapist and media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer: "Just to know that there is a Kenneth Forde in the world, hopefully never needing him again but knowing he's there if you do, gives me a tremendous sense of security."
A founding member of the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons and of the American Trauma Society, Dr. Forde is co-editor-in-chief of the journal Surgical Endoscopy. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a past president of the P&S Alumni Association, which recognized his commitment to excellence with its Medal for Outstanding Meritorious Service to the association and the college.
The Kenneth A. Forde Professorship at P&S will be the second endowed chair in colorectal surgery in the nation.
For information on participating in the professorship, contact Anke Nolting at the P&S Alumni Association, (212) 305-3498.