Who is Dr. David John Sugarbaker Baylor?
Dr. David John Sugarbaker Baylor (August 5, 1953 – August 29, 2018) was chief of the Division of General Thoracic Surgery and director of the Baylor College of Medicine Lung Institute at CHI St. Luke’s Health–Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
He was a world-renowned thoracic surgeon who specialized in the treatment of mesothelioma, malignant pleural mesothelioma, and complex thoracic cancers.
Dr. David John Sugarbaker Baylor & Pleural mesothelioma Therapy
Dr. David Sugarbaker was a maverick in the field of pleural mesothelioma therapy for almost 30 years. For 26 years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, he established the top mesothelioma treatment center in the United States. He also perfected and improved extrapleural pneumonectomy.
Some of the most renowned surgeons in the nation learned with Sugarbaker, and today they are some of the best mesothelioma specialists. They continue his mission: seeking a cure and extending the lives of so many persons who have been diagnosed with the aggressive disease.
After that, he went to Texas and served as the director of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and as the head of the mesothelioma clinical and research program at one of America’s top academic health science centers.
The Accomplished Life of Dr. David Sugarbaker
David John Sugarbaker grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri with ten siblings. He was the second youngest child and only boy after his big brother Paul became a surgeon too! As if being an only child wasn’t hard enough already at age 18 when most kids are out on their own for college applications or job interviews–they’re nothing compared to the living situation during childhood years where everyone has something else going on besides you – David had this extra pressure of knowing that one day someone might need help from him as part of these surgeries they did together every day before becoming famous doctors like a father (and now grandfather) Everett Dornbush ‘The Man Who Saved Thousands’.
Early Life of Dr.Sugarbaker Baylor
David John Sugarbaker grew up in a family of ten children, the seventh son, and fourth doctor. His mother was registered nurse Gevena Ione Van Dyke who helped him with his homework every night after dinner until college where she would have been proud to see her youngest go away as he had promised long ago they would be separated by more than just miles from now on this day so many years past since then
Dr. David Sugarbaker, whose surgical breakthroughs helped save the lives of thousands of mesothelioma patients, died on Nov. 6 in Houston after a long battle with the disease.
Who are the founders of modern surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma?
Dr. Sugarbaker is considered one of the founders of modern surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma, deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
His approach to surgery, which he named cytoreductive pulmonary surgery, combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, has led the way in extending the life expectancy for mesothelioma patients from a few months to a decade or more.
“He was a giant in the field,” said Dr. David Gerber, a surgeon at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who studied with Dr. Sugarbaker and completed the surgical techniques that made his mentor’s approach feasible for routine use.
Dr. Sugarbaker was also known as an uncompromising doctor and teacher, capable of delivering difficult news without cushioning the impact.
He insisted that patients should know all their options, including how palliative care can ease pain and extend life.
“You don’t want to put people in a position where they feel they have no choice,” Dr. Sugarbaker told the writer Rebecca Skloot for her 2010 book ” The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks .”
Dr. Sugarbaker did not have mesothelioma himself, but he had spent decades operating on patients with the disease.
He was a close friend of Ms. Lacks, an African-American woman who died of the disease in 1951 at age 31.
Her doctors took her cells without consent and created the first line of human cells that we’re able to reproduce outside the body. These so-called HeLa cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, used for everything from testing vaccines to tracing the inheritance of genes.
Dr. Sugarbaker also became friends with Ms. Lacks’s daughter Deborah, whom he first met when she was 12 years old.
He worked to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma, which had been recognized as distinct cancer only in 1968. Even after its cause became clear, no effective treatments existed for many years.
During his career, Dr. Sugarbaker trained scores of surgeons who have gone on to spread the word about how to prevent this cancer, identify it early and fight it with modern surgical techniques.
Dr. Sugarbaker also became known for his pioneering work on extrapleural pneumonectomy or the removal of only part of the lung affected by mesothelioma. The procedure leaves behind healthy lungs that can continue to function even if cancer later recurs in the remaining lung.
Dr. Sugarbaker performed the surgery on so many patients with mesothelioma that he became known as “the father of extrapleural pneumonectomy.”
In one paper, he documented performing the surgery on a woman who had been near death from mesothelioma and was given less than a year to live. Twenty-four years later she was still alive and had never required chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Dr. Sugarbaker was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 30, 1944, the son of Dr. Henry David Sugarbaker and Evelyn (Beebe) Sugarbaker. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1965 from Yale University and an M.D. in 1968 from Harvard Medical School, where he also completed a residency in surgery in 1972.
He joined the Brigham & Women’s Hospital staff as an assistant surgeon in 1974 and devoted much of his career to developing better treatment for mesothelioma patients. He was named chief of thoracic surgery in 1981 and served as co-director of the Brigham & Women’s C. Everett Koop Lung Cancer Research Center from 1988 to 2006.
Dr. Sugarbaker was also an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, where he taught many residents who went on to become experts in treating mesothelioma patients.
“He was a mentor to so many of us,” Dr. Gerber said.
Major Contributions of Dr.Sugarbaker Baylor
Dr. Sugarbaker became an international authority on treating mesothelioma, and he consulted for surgeons in Europe and South America who were developing new approaches to the disease.
In addition, he developed two medical devices — one that improved the ability to see the surface of the lungs and another that improved access to the chest cavity during surgery.
Dr. Sugarbaker Baylor’s Death & Legacy
After Dr. Sugarbaker’s death, his family donated money to Brigham & Women’s Hospital for an endowed lectureship in his name on thoracic surgery, said Dr. Kristin Newby, director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School.
Many of Dr. Sugarbaker’s children followed him into medicine, their father sometimes taking time off from surgery to sit on tables in hospital corridors with his kids while he had a sandwich during his lunch break.
“He was a real family guy,” Dr. Newby said. “He always tried to schedule his surgeries so he could be home for dinner.”
In addition to his wife and six children, survivors include two sisters, Maureen Ziehl of Bethlehem, Pa., and Mary Lou Sugarbaker of Charlotte; and five brothers, Joseph of Southborough, Mass.; Paul and Tom, both of Bethlehem; Wayne of Denver; and David of Portland, Ore.