David J. Sugarbaker, MD, an internationally known pioneer in the surgical management of malignant pleural mesothelioma and of complex thoracic cancers, passed away in August 2018 at the age of 66. Throughout his lifetime, Dr. Sugarbaker developed methods to perform intraoperative heated chemotherapy and refined extrapleural pneumonectomy techniques.
Dr. Sugarbaker graduated top of his class with his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1979. After his residency, he was appointed chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he founded the first noncardiac division of thoracic surgery in the United States. In 1990, Dr. Sugarbaker performed the first lung transplant, and developed the first general thoracic surgical training program in 1992.
Dr. Sugarbaker founded the International Mesothelioma Program in 2002, with the goal of finding a cure for the disease. He moved to Texas Medical Center in 2014, where he founded the new Division of General Thoracic Surgery, The Lung Institute, as well as the Mesothelioma Treatment Center.
Dr. Sugarbaker wore numerous hats throughout the years at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS). The current president, David H. Adams, MD, said in a statement by the AATS that “Through [Dr. Sugarbaker’s] leadership and focused attention, he played a major role in transforming [the AATS] into the contemporary, international, and philanthropic organization that it is today. His mentorship of so many leaders in the association will have a lasting effect on the trajectory of the organization for years to come.” ✦