Robert E. Scully, MD

Robert E. Scully, MD

Robert E. Scully, MD (October 20, 2012)

Robert E. Scully, MD was born in Pittsfield, MA on August 31st, 1921 and died on October 30th, 2012, after a short illness. Dr. Scully’s contributions to gynecologic pathology were immense and place him among the highest echelon of contributors to that discipline.

Dr. Scully graduated magna cum laude from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA in 1941 and received his MD from the Harvard Medical School in 1944. He trained in pathology at the then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children’s Hospital under Drs. S. Burt Wolbach and Sydney Farber. He then spent a year as resident at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline and Boston Lying-In Hospital under the eminent gynecologic pathologist, Dr. Arthur T. Hertig and a year at Pondville State Cancer Hospital in Norfolk, MA. After a year spent as an instructor at Harvard Medical School, he was recruited by Dr. Tracy B. Mallory to the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). His early tenure at that hospital was interrupted by service in the US Army during the Korean conflict (1952 – 1954). He then rejoined the MGH pathology faculty where he remained for over 50 years. He attained the rank of Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School in 1971 and at his death was an Emeritus Professor. Throughout his career Dr. Scully was a mainstay of the MGH pathology faculty and became widely known for his diagnostic prowess. Although a practitioner of general pathology through most of his career, early in his career he took a special interest in gynecologic pathology. A book, published in 1958, on tumors of the ovary with Dr. John McLean Morris, cemented his early reputation as an authority on ovarian tumors. Shortly thereafter, he was elected co-moderator of the World Health Organization (WHO) group charged with standardizing the classification of ovarian tumors. Dr. Scully helped devise a classification that moved the area into a much more logical and organized schema.

Dr. Scully’s activities rapidly made him the source for second opinions in difficult gynecologic pathology cases. The sheer volume of such cases coupled with his astute eye, enabled him to recognize patterns of neoplasia not previously appreciated. In the mid-1970s Dr. Scully authored two fascicles on tumors of the ovary under the auspices of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The work, published in 1979, distilled Dr. Scully’s vast knowledge of ovarian tumors and the many issues in differential diagnosis that they pose. A second edition was published in 1998. Dr. Scully again was active in WHO deliberations in the late 1990s when he led the group that classified all female genital tract tumors.

Dr. Scully was an important member of the MGH team which in the early 1970s established a relationship between in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and subsequent unusual cervical and vaginal tumors in the daughters of the mothers who had taken DES. For many years Dr. Scully was the pathologist for the registry for such tumors that was subsequently established. This led to multiple papers on this topic.

Many of the current leaders in the field of gynecologic pathology trained with Dr. Scully as visiting fellows, and his influence has accordingly been felt world-wide. He traveled extensively giving carefully prepared lectures, being aware of how important it was to do the utmost to teach not only locally at his own hospital and medical school but as widely as possible. His travels brought him in contact with countless pathologists and clinicians throughout the world all whom developed great affection for him because of his personal qualities, a gentle demeanor, humility, kindness and respect to all. He was always more than happy to share credit with others and often assisted with papers that ultimately did not bear his name as long as he felt that knowledge and patient care were being enhanced. Dr. Scully received many honors throughout his career, some that he most treasured being an honorary degree from his alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross, the Fred W. Stewart Award of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Distinguished Pathologist Award of the United States-Canadian Academy of Pathology, and an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists. He was the founding President and served for six years in that role for the then newly formed International Society of Gynecological Pathologists, in the 1970s. A Harvard Medical School Professorship in his name was endowed near the end of his career based on donations by his many colleagues and admirers. Dr. Scully also edited the popular weekly New England Journal of Medicine Case Records of the MGH for 27 years. Although his life was in great measure devoted to his profession Dr. Scully was a man of wide interests with a great knowledge of the arts and literature. He had a massive store of knowledge concerning the history of medicine and pathology and, in his later years, devoted significant time to writing on the history of pathology. With his late friend Dr. Austin L. Vickery Jr., he wrote the definitive essay on the history of pathology at the hospitals of Harvard Medical School and in a recent book on the history of pathology at MGH, Dr. Scully authored or co-authored four chapters. Appropriately one of the other chapters in that book was devoted to Dr. Scully himself.

Dr. Scully never married but was devoted to his nieces and nephews, one of the latter sadly predeceasing him. They were equally devoted to him. Dr. Scully was much beloved by all who had the good fortune to get to know him well and he has left a rich legacy with his many contributions.

— Prepared by Fredric D. Frigoletto Jr., M.D., Charles Montraville Green and Robert Montraville Green Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harvard Medical School
— Robert H. Young, M.D., Robert E. Scully Professor of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

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