The godfather of breast surgery

“If I have seen farther, it has been by standing on the shoulders of giants…”

Isaac Newton

Readers of this blog will not be suprised to learn that I like to pepper medical students with questions about surgical history. Recently, a student cleverly deflected me by asking who was the most famous surgeon I had met. Professor Umberto Veronesi was born and educated in Milan. Veronesi shifted the paradigm of breast cancer surgery from the maximum tolerated to the minimum required. For centuries total mastectomy and complete axillary lymph node dissection was offered to all. In the late 1970s, Veronesi pioneered the concept of surgical breast conservation amidst massive controversy. Again in the late 1990s he became a key advocate of limited axillary sentinel lymph biopsy. Both are now accepted standards for breast cancer care. Whilst at a conference in Barcelona in 2010, I attended a networking dinner with the great man. I still wonder if he ever recounted about the night he met me. #surgicalroyalty #letsmakelmonade

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