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1942 - 2020

Franco Mosca, M.D., 1942-2020

Professor Franco Mosca, Professor Emeritus and past Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Pisa, Italy, passed away in Pisa on May 31st, 2020. Born in Biella, Italy, on February 27, 1942, he obtained his MD degree from the Collegio Medico-Giuridico of the University of Pisa in 1966; five years later he graduated from the General Surgery Residency of the Department of Surgery at the University of Pisa and stayed on as an Assistant Professor. At that time, the Department was known for treatment of common benign and malignant gastrointestinal, biliary, urological and thoracic pathology and had just started a kidney transplant program: over the course of the following four decades the visionary Professor Mosca transformed the Department of Surgery at the University of Pisa into a highly advanced and sophisticated academic quaternary center of excellence in oncologic, vascular and solid organ transplantation surgery.

This was done in a step-wise fashion following an organic vision based on clinical excellence. At first, Prof Mosca strengthened the kidney transplant program, later on followed by a pancreas and kidney-pancreas transplant program, started surgical treatment of portal hypertension after a six month fellowship in London with Dame Sheila Sherlock and vascular surgery complemented by a sojourn with a member of this Association, Dr. Antony Imparato, at New York University. Prof Mosca then expanded gastrointestinal surgical oncology to include advanced pancreatic and hepatobiliary surgery, and embraced laparoscopic surgery. After a prolonged stay at the University of Chicago with yet another member of this Association, Dr. Christoph Broelch, Professor Mosca was able to start a very successful liver transplant program. With the addition of liver transplants to a growing kidney and pancreas transplant program, by the late 90’s Professor Mosca had created the busiest transplant surgery program in Italy with the largest series of kidney-pancreas transplants in Europe. Simultaneously, Professor Mosca dedicated himself to improve hospital facilities creating a state of the art surgical unit with advanced ORs and ICUs. He also developed advanced endoscopic and ultrasound diagnostic and therapeutic services as integral components of the Department of Surgery, based on his believe that we surgeons are well positioned to obtain the best clinical outcomes only when we are facile with all these diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.

Professor Mosca paid equal attention to the development of a strong research unit with clinical outcome research, basic science research and translational research. The development of the clinical outcome research came first as a by-product of the expansion of the clinical services. This was followed by the establishment of a laboratory of tumor immunology. Then, in the early 90's, Professor Mosca was again visionary in establishing collaborative ties with the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the University of Pisa. This led to the formation of a bioengineering laboratory in the Department of Surgery. This effort matured into a Center for Advanced Surgery (CAS) dedicated to skills training and research in computed-guided surgery, which was recognized as one of only two “center of excellence” by the Italian Health Ministry and was accredited by the American College of Surgeons.

In the process, Prof. Mosca authored more than 400 papers in the areas of gastrointestinal oncology, vascular surgery, endoscopy, ultrasound imaging, laparoscopy and transplantation, and became one of the most respected and influential Italian and European surgeons. These exceptional accomplishments were recognized in Italy with the Cherubino award, the highest award conferred by the University of Pisa (2000) and the Gold Medal for Health Care by the Italian Republic (2005); and abroad with Honorary Membership in the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburg (2006), in the Polish Surgical Society (2008), in the American Surgical Association (2009) and in the American College of Surgeons (2018).

All along his professional career, Professor Mosca combined incredible vision, determination, outstanding organizational qualities and indefatigable energy. In a Country, Italy, with limited resources for health care and research, these qualities are not sufficient to guarantee success. Professor Mosca realized the existence of this challenge long time ago and created one of the first Foundations for Medical Research in Italy, the Associazione Pisana di Ricerche in Chirurgia. A decade later this foundation morphed into a second one, called “Arpa”, created with the help of Maestro Andrea Bocelli. Better supported and with a broader reach, Arpa has been able to distribute funds for clinical and research programs in Surgery, and has funded the medical training of many physicians from underdeveloped countries.

Professor Mosca was a man with a strong-willed character, an excellent physician and surgeon, a demanding teacher and a person attentive to others. A man of rare integrity and exceptional stature, he dedicated his whole life to his patients, his students and the less fortunate. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Giuseppina Bottino Mosca; three daughters: Marta Mosca, MD, MPH, Professor and Chairperson of the Immunology Unit of the University of Pisa; Elena Mosca, MBA, Irene Mosca, MD; and 3 grandchildren.