Madam President, it is my distinct privilege to present to you Prof. Ignace Vergote of Leuven, Belgium, for Honorary Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons. Professor Vergote is currently the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Catholic University Leuven, and director of the Cancer Institute at University Hospitals, Leuven.
Ignace Vergote was born in Ghent, an attractive medieval canal city in Flanders, Belgium, and, as the youngest of four children who entered medicine, obtained his medical degree from the University of Ghent. In addition to graduating with honors from the school, it was there that he met his wife Laure, a dermatologist, and together they have raised four children, two of whom have selected careers in medicine. He developed an early interest in cancers unique to women and following his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, he pursued specialty training in gynecologic oncology with Professors Per Kolstad and Claes Trope at the Norwegian Radium Hospital in Oslo. It was there that Professor Vergote defended his thesis and was granted a PhD from the University of Oslo.
Professor Vergote returned as Belgium’s first trained gynecologic oncologist to head the division of gynecologic oncology at the University Hospitals Leuven. His academic career has been characterized by extensive clinical and translational investigation with a special focus on ovarian and endometrial cancers. Ever embracing new techniques and technology, Professor Vergote has innovatively exploited their clinical utility. Exemplary was his pioneering use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by interval cytoreductive surgery for treating advanced ovarian cancer. Whereas his initial efforts were met with substantial criticism within the surgical community, he engaged his skeptics and supporters alike to participate in a randomized surgical trial that demonstrated the efficacy of this approach.
Professor Vergote has also maintained an abiding interest in exploring the pathogenesis of gynecologic cancers. His laboratory curiosity has evolved from early studies of DNA ploidy status to contemporary clinical applications of molecular profiling. However, recognizing that accrual proficiency and standardization in conducting clinical trials would require collegial collaborations across borders, Professor Vergote founded the European Network of Gynaecological Oncological Trials Group. This network now includes 17 nations participating in academic surgical, radiotherapy, and targeted drug trials and emphasizes the incorporation of translational components. In addition, Professor Vergote has played a major role in the initiation and maturation of the specialty of gynecologic oncology in Belgium and in Europe. He initially formalized an advanced surgical training fellowship for breast and gynecologic cancers in his department and subsequently, while president of the European Society of Gynaecological Oncology, facilitated a system for certifying gynecologic oncology training centers throughout Europe.
As a member of numerous editorial boards, editor of several journals, author of more than 550 peer-reviewed publications, and president of several national and international specialty organizations, Professor Vergote has been the recipient of the Norwegian Kolstad, the Netherlands COBRA, and the Austrian Wertheim prizes, all for excellence in gynecologic oncology.
Madam President, it is with great pride that I present Prof. Ignace Vergote, a surgeon dedicated to enhancing our knowledge and treatment of cancers unique to women, for Honorary Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons.