Dr. David Sugarbaker, a pioneer in the treatment of mesothelioma for over 30 years, suddenly passed away on August 29, 2018. He was a world-renowned thoracic surgeon and was a man who many of his colleagues and patients considered to be the “gold standard” in treating mesothelioma cancer.
Dr. Sugarbaker was the Director of Thoracic Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He started his work at Baylor College in 2014 after 26 years of service at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, the most well-known and respected mesothelioma treatment center in the country.
His goal was to build another treatment program that would match that of the Brigham and Women’s, and over the last four years managed to make that dream he had for the Baylor College program a reality.
The Sugarbaker Generation of Surgeons
Colleagues of Dr. Sugarbaker, as well as those he mentored, remember him as the man responsible for educating a new generation of surgeons who specialize in mesothelioma treatment.
Jacques Fontaine, a thoracic surgeon trained by Dr. Sugarbaker, said in response to the news of his sudden passing:
“His legacy will endure through the accomplishments of all the prominent thoracic surgeons he has trained. He is the mentor of mentors. His vision, focus, and dedication to advancing the treatment of mesothelioma have influenced an entire generation of thoracic surgeons.”
Through his trailblazing research that led to the development of the Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) procedure, Dr. Sugarbaker helped thousands of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma beat the odds. Many of his patients lived well past their life expectancy. Some for five or even 10 years after they received treatment.
His emphasis on educating younger surgeons entering the field helped to solidify his legacy and ensured his efforts would not die with him.
The entire mesothelioma community is shocked and saddened by this sudden loss. Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal, another thoracic surgeon who had the privilege to be trained by Dr. Sugarbaker, said:
“In this field [of mesothelioma], he is the gold standard. I don’t think you’ll get any argument over that. He is Dr. Mesothelioma.”
Everyone mourns the loss of Dr. Sugarbaker and are thankful to have been influenced, even indirectly, by his unmatched dedication in treating this rare disease and the care he had for his patients.
He is survived by his wife Linda and their six children.