George D. Wilbanks, Jr., MD

George D. Wilbanks

June 3, 2012

Born in Georgia in 1931, and raised on a cattle farm in Tampa, Dr. Wilbanks died of natural causes Sunday, June 3, 2012, in the Health & Wellness Center of The Forest at Duke in Durham, North Carolina. He was an internationally renowned cancer researcher, surgeon and professor of obstetrics and gynecology. He was a pioneer in establishing gynecologic oncology as a specialty and recognized for maintaining the balance between treating patients and research.

Dr. Wilbanks completed a 7 year combined BA/MD program at Duke University, served his internship at The Pennsylvania Hospital, his Ob/Gyn residency at Duke, and a gynecological pathology training program at Boston’s Lying-In and Free Hospitals. He held an NIH grant for pathology training at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and in 1965, he returned to Duke Medical School as Assistant Professor to establish its gynecologic pathology program. From 1970 to 1996, he was the John M. Simpson Professor and Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois. Their Board of Trustees established the George D Wilbanks Chair in Gynecological Oncology to support research in ovarian cancer when he left.

His early work identifying the human papillomavirus and its relation to cervical cancer contributed to development of the current vaccines. He had about 100 peer-reviewed publications, and held visiting professorships at Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, at St Thomas's Hospital, London, UK and at the OB/GYN & Translational Oncology Lab at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, UK. In addition, he was a Clinical Professor at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.

Although happiest conducting research, caring for patients and sharing his expertise with doctors around the world, Dr. Wilbanks dedicated time to various professional organizations. He was a member of multiple professional organizations including this organization. He served as President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (1995-1996), the Association of Professors of Gynecology & Obstetrics, the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics/Gynecology, the International Federation of Cervical Pathology & Colposcopy, the American Society of Colposcopy & Cervical Pathology, and the Chicago Gynecologic Society. He was Regent of the American College of Surgeons, and the medical adviser to Chicago and Illinois Planned Parenthood, Vice President and founding member of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr. Wilbanks did research in ovarian cancer at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, where he worked closely with the Ovarian Cancer Group. In addition to his scientific curiosity, he financially supported several small projects. His family sponsored the GD Wilbanks Lectureship in Gynecologic Oncology at the University of South Florida established in 1998 in his honor.

Although his cancer research and medical practice provided immense satisfaction to Dr. Wilbanks, his family was the true joy of his life. In the last few years, he and his wife split their time between Tampa, Florida and London and also kept a home in Durham. Dr. Wilbanks is survived by his wife of 58 years, Evelyn Rivers Wilbanks of Durham and his sons and daughters-in-law Wayne and Ashlin Wilbanks of Norfolk, Virginia, and George and Ann Wilbanks of Westport, Connecticut. He leaves four grandchildren: Margaret and Virginia Wilbanks of Norfolk, Virginia, and Elizabeth and George Alexander Wilbanks of Davis, California and New Delhi, India, respectively. Dr. Wilbanks was an avid tennis player and accomplished sailboat racer, passions he shared with his sons and grandchildren and many long-time friends. His son recalls much time on a ¾ ton racing boat during the 70s and 80s, racing 15+ Chicago to Mackinaw races and sailing small dinghies in snow and 40 degree water in Belmont Harbor in Chicago!

Submitted by Dr. Jerome Yankowitz, MD
With help from Dr. Santo Nicosia, Mitch Hoffman and
his wife and son Evelyn and Wayne Wilbanks

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