Dr. George Nicholas Papanikolaou
Dr. George Nicholas Papanikolaou was born May 13, 1883 in the town of Kimi on the island of Euboea, Greece and educated at the University of Athens. In 1928, when he was an obscure Cornell Medical College researcher, he reported in a medical journal on a "New Cancer Diagnosis." He outlined his theory that cancer of the uterus, which was then one of the leading causes of death in women, could be detected by a microscopic examination of a vaginal smear. The test seemed far simpler than the standard system of surgical biopsy.
His theory was ignored by most physicians for the next decade, but in the late 1930's, Dr. Papanikolaou resumed his studies, and in 1943 his new findings showed conclusively that such vaginal smears could indicate uterine cancer before any other symptoms had appeared.
His findings then won total acceptance, and the "Pap test" for women helped cut the national death rate from uterine cancer nearly in half in less than 25 years. Thereafter, Dr. Papanikolaou won international acclaim, but he continued his work at Cornell, where he completed a 48 year association. He then took over a research institute in Miami, Forida, which was named after him, the "Papanikolaou Cancer Research Institute at Miami." Only a few months later, Dr. Papanikolaou died, at the age of 78.
In one of his last letters, he wrote to the Order of Ahepa:
Due to my recent moving to Miami, Florida I have just received your announcement of the 60-day campaign initiated by our great organization for the purpose of raising funds for our new Cancer Research Institute here.
I am very deeply touched by it and I can find no words to express to you my sincere appreciation and gratitude. Our Institute will be dedicated to research on problems related to the control of cancer, particularly through the further development and wider application of the method which was originally devised in our laboratory. It is now generally recognized that our greatest hopes for controlling this dreaded disease is through its detection at an early, curable stage.
The valuable assistance and support you so graciously propose to give us at this crucial moment is indeed a very generous gesture which is most deeply appreciated.
GEORGE N. Papanikolaou, M.D.
George Papanikolaou -- A Pioneer in Medical Research