The mesothelioma community is mourning the loss of Dr. David Sugarbaker, a pioneer in the treatment and research of the rare asbestos-related cancer.
Sugarbaker, who was the director of the Lung Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, died Wednesday. He was 65.
He was a mentor to several of the nation’s top mesothelioma specialists, including Dr. Abraham Lebenthal at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Dr. Jacques Fontaine at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.
Sugarbaker refined and advanced the extrapleural pneumonectomy, an aggressive surgical procedure that removes the cancerous lung, the lining around the heart and lung, portions of the diaphragm and nearby lymph nodes. He brought hope to treating a cancer once viewed as untreatable.
Sugarbaker’s Impact Undeniable
In addition to those in the medical community, Sugarbaker had a lasting impact on his patients and their families, evident by the outpour of condolences and appreciation for the thoracic surgeon on social media.
Legacy Runs Deeper Than Colleagues and Patients
Sugarbaker’s impact reached far outside of the operating room. His research put mesothelioma treatment where it is today, and his guidance for dozens of young thoracic surgeons gives hope for the future.
Lorraine Kember, who lost her husband Brian to pleural mesothelioma in 2001, never had the opportunity to meet Sugarbaker. She often wonders what it would have meant to Brian if he was treated by the well-respected surgeon.
“I am so sad to hear this news. What an amazing doctor he was,” Kember said. “How greatly he will be missed. My sincere sympathy to all of his loved ones and friends.”