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1920 - 2018

Stuart H. Q. Quan, M.D., 1920-2018

Dr. Quan, who passed away on July 4, 2018, on his 98th birthday, was an Attending Surgeon in Memorial Sloan Kettering's Colorectal Service for more than 50 years, and he also served as Professor of Clinical Surgery at Cornell Medical College. Dr. Quan was a phenomenal surgeon and remarkable human being.

One of ten children, Dr. Quan was born in 1920 in California. He grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown, where his father was a respected physician. Stuart Quan was only three when his father passed away, and he knew at the age of six that he wanted to become a doctor. After attending Stanford University for his undergraduate studies, he accepted a scholarship opportunity at Harvard Medical School, from which he graduated in 1945.

Dr. Quan completed postgraduate training in surgery and pathology at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Children's Hospital before moving to New York City in 1949 and joining Memorial Hospital's Department of Surgery. With the exception of two years that he served as a U.S. Air Force surgeon in France and Libya in the 1950s, he worked continuously at Memorial Sloan Kettering for over half a century, as I mentioned. Upon his retirement at the age of 80 in the year 2000, Memorial Sloan Kettering established the endowed position of Stuart Quan Chair in Colorectal Surgery, which is currently held by Dr. Martin Weiser.

Among his many contributions to colorectal oncology, Dr. Quan was perhaps best known for the 1959 article he coauthored with Maus Stearns and Michael Deddish on preoperative radiation therapy for rectal cancer. That seminal paper prompted a series of national studies on the topic and helped improve treatment options. It also distinguished Dr. Quan as one of the country's preeminent figures in the management of rectal cancer. The approach described in that paper is now used routinely throughout the world.

Over the course of his lifetime, Dr. Quan earned numerous honors and awards, including a Distinguished Service Award from the American Cancer Society. A visionary leader as well as a talented surgeon, Dr. Quan served as President of the Society of Surgical Oncology in 1971 and as President of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons in 1984. In addition to his very high standing in our field, he was known for being exceptionally generous with his time and knowledge and for skillfully mentoring many aspiring surgeons.

Dr. Quan left a rich legacy as a surgical oncologist of great skill, wisdom, and dedication.