John J. Mikuta, MD

John J. Mikuta, MD

John J. Mikuta, MD (January 25, 2013)

John Joseph Mikuta, M.D., the Franklin Payne Professor Emeritus of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, passed away peacefully on January 25, 2013 at the age of 88. Born in 1925 and a native of Scranton, PA, he was both an undergraduate and medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he spent his entire medical career. Between his internship and residency, he served in the U.S. Army at Osaka General Hospital in Japan, and as assistant chief of the medical service at Camp Breckenridge Army Hospital. Following his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, he joined the faculty at Penn, where he developed his interest in the care of women with gynecologic cancers.

He was widely considered as one of the founding fathers of the specialty of gynecologic oncology. Along with his good friend Hervy Averette, he conceived the idea that there was a need for an organization of individuals interested in the care of women with reproductive tract cancers that would foster education, research, and training in this area. This led directly to the formation of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in 1969, with John as one of its early Presidents. He was also involved in numerous other professional organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, where he served as Assistant Secretary, and the Society of Pelvic Surgeons, where he served as President. He established the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Penn, and headed it for 30 years, until he stepped down in 1993, having trained more than 20 fellows.

He was the recipient of many awards during his distinguished career, including the Penn Medicine Alumni Service Award in 1994, the J. Robert Willson Award from the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia, the Jonathan Wainwright Award for Excellence in Cancer Research, and the Robert A. Ross Navy Award. He has also received the St. George Medal, the Distinguished Service Award, and the Humanitarian Award from the American Cancer Society, of which he was an Honorary Life Member. Former Oncology Fellows honored him by establishing the John J. Mikuta Society in 1984, and with a Festschrift in 1990. He was a particularly devoted alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania, which honored him with its inaugural Penn Medicine Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. In 2008 the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn established the John J. Mikuta Award for Professionalism in Women’s Health and in 2010 the John J. Mikuta, M.D. Endowed Professorship in Gynecologic Oncology.

He was a consummate physician and an outstanding surgeon who understood the importance of treating the whole patient, and not just her disease. During his long career he was a role model and mentor for many young physicians, who would not be gynecologic oncologists today were it not for his influence, encouragement, and charisma. He was loved and revered by his patients, and by generations of trainees, and colleagues. He was a renaissance man who would quote classic poetry as he operated, and a raconteur of great accomplishment. Affectionately referred to as “the Boss” by his fellows and colleagues, he enjoyed a good cigar, a perfect Manhattan, and a good round of golf. His trainees were privileged to learn many important lessons from him, but none more important than to always put the patient first.

Dr. Mikuta was the husband of Margaret (nee Beauchamp); father of Ann M. Murray, of Wayland, MA; Mark P. Mikuta, of Richmond, VA; Paul P. Mikuta, of Lansdale, PA; and the late John J. Mikuta Jr. He is also survived by nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Submitted by Stephen C. Rubin, MD

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