On Sept. 11, 2012 Dr. Leopold Koss, one of the founding fathers of cytology, passed away at his home in New York City at the age of 92.
Koss was born in Gdansk, Poland in 1920. He began his education there, but was interrupted during WWII. His parents and sister perished in the Holocaust, but he survived and sought refuge in Switzerland, where he was able to complete his education. Koss graduated from the University of Bern, Switzerland in 1946.
During his time there, his work in experimental embryology caused him to develop an interest in pathology and microscopy. In 1947, Koss moved to the United States with his wife and young son and began his career in pathology.
From 1952 to 1970, Koss served as an attending pathologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. From 1970 to 1973, he held the positions of pathologist-in-chief at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and professor of Pathology at Jefferson University. In 1973, he became professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he remained until his retirement in the 1990s. Following retirement, he remained active as professor and chairman emeritus until his passing.
In addition to his clinical and teaching activities, Koss was a widely published author. There have been five editions of his textbook Diagnostic Cytology and its Histopathologic Basis which is regarded as an important cytopathology reference (and was recently translated into Chinese). He has also published several textbooks on urinary tract and gynecologic cytopathology as well as numerous scientific papers. Koss was also an editor for Acta Cytologica for many years. More recently, his book From Poland to Park Avenue: The Memoirs of Leopold G. Koss, MD was published posthumously.
Throughout his career, Koss received numerous awards and honors. His awards include the Sloan Award in Cancer Research, the George N. Papanicolaou award from the American Society of Cytology, the Maurice Goldblatt Cytology Award from the International Academy of Cytology, the Wein award from the Papanicolaou Institute, and the Medaille d' Honneur from the Free University of Brussels.
He was one of the original members of the American Society of Cytopathology (ASC), which honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He was an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in Great Britain; a member of the German Academy of Sciences in Leopoldina, Germany; an emeritus fellow of the American Society for Clinical Pathology; and a fellow of the American Society for the Advancement of Sciences. He was also honored as a "Distinguished Pathologist" by the U.S.-Canadian Academy of Pathology and the Association of Pathology Chairmen.
Koss's interests extended beyond cytopathology to the arts and humanities. This is reflected in the lectureship he helped to establish through the ASC. The Leopold Koss Lectureship presents an award to prominent medical professionals who share a dedication and commitment to furthering humanities. Koss also established a lectureship at the Univeristy of Bern as an expression of thanks for their roll in his education.
His impact on the cytopathology community will undoubtedly be felt for many generations, not only through the work of those he trained, but through the wealth of knowledge he left behind. If you would like to share your thoughts, the ASC has set up a website where you can leave comments. Click here to visit the site.
Eliza Enstine is ASCT publications chair.