In memoriam: Dr. John M. Daly: ACS Past-Second Vice-President and leader in cancer care, patient education

The College was saddened to learn that John M. Daly, MD, FACS, FRCSI(Hon), dean of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and an ACS Past-Second Vice-President, died unexpectedly March 26. He was 73 years old.

At Temple University, Dr. Daly was dedicated to improving patient care and the work environment. He oversaw significant improvements in the national ranking of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, which included expanding the school’s research capacity, building a postdoctoral program, and more. Dr. Daly also committed to improving the North Philadelphia community by working across the Temple health system to create health outreach initiatives and by addressing racial equity within the medical school. A native Philadelphian who graduated from Temple Medical School in 1973, Dr. Daly also worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, and Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, in his career.

“I knew Dr. Daly from when I was a resident at Temple and he was the dean,” said Jeffrey M. Farma, MD, FACS, chief, division of general surgery and professor, department of surgical oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple Health. “He was an unconditional mentor through my entire career. No matter how busy he was, he always had his door open to give advice, answer your call, and help. He was that way to everyone, even those who were not a surgeon.

“He was always there to help you. He absolutely adored being a surgeon. You could call him into a case, and he was there to help and teach.”

Dr. Daly was a renowned surgical oncologist with areas of expertise that included management of patients with breast and gastrointestinal cancers and research that addressed tumor immunology, among other areas.

Work with the ACS

Among his leadership positions within the ACS, Dr. Daly was Past-Chair of the Commission on Cancer (1994–1996) and the Co-Chair of the ACS Patient Education Committee (2013–2021). In 2019, Dr. Daly was inducted into the ACS Academy of Master Surgeon Educators. On the Patient Care Committee, he channeled his commitment to cancer care, as well as his overarching goal of helping patients manage their disease and recovery from surgery through work on the ACS opioid-sparing pain control program and other similar initiatives. Dr. Daly also served as Chair of the Nominating Committee of the Fellows and Vice-Chair of the Surgical Research Committee.

For his continued dedication to surgical patients and the College, Dr. Daly was elected ACS Second Vice-President in 2012.

A compassionate advocate for patient education

Dr. Daly’s work with the ACS Patient Education Committee was particularly impactful, both for patients and those with whom he worked. He was noted as being able to get everyone around him to feel valued and inspired to do even more. Dr. Daly’s work with the ACS Patient Education Committee was particularly impactful, both for patients and those with whom he worked. He was noted as being able to get everyone around him to feel valued and inspired to do even more.

“His energy was endless—anytime you met with Dr. Daly, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the room,” said Kathleen Heneghan, PHD, RN, PN-C, Assistant Director for ACS Patient Education.

“I was honored to work with Dr. Daly for the last seven years when he was the Co-Chair of the Patient Education Committee,” Dr. Heneghan said, noting that his efforts helped the committee obtain $5 million in grant funding to support patient education programs. “These funds supported the free access and use by ACS members. Working in Philadelphia, Dr. Daly was always very aware of the needs of the poor and the support surgeons needed when working in hospitals with limited resources.”

Dr. Daly preparing to speak to the U.S. Senate on the opioid epidemic and surgeons’ response

Patient education activities require grant support to be available to these resource-limited institutions, and Dr. Daly always was available for donor grant calls and meetings, which helped garner millions of dollars in funding. Most recently, the Safe and Effective Pain Control program was established with these funds.

“We published numerous papers together on the outcomes of these programs,” Dr. Heneghan said. “His role in both developing and presenting at both national meeting and legislative committees, as well as working with all of the surgical specialty groups, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control, were critical in developing opioid-sparing pain control programs in surgery.”

Some other major initiatives developed under Dr. Daly included the feeding tube, central line, and wound skill kits. Most recently, he assisted with the ACS Surgical Breast Cancer Program, which is launching this month. He often would say, “Let’s just get it done. If you wait for it to be perfect, it may never happen.”

Dr. Daly was known as a master of using his time wisely, scheduling brief, 15-minute calls at 6:00 am as he was going into work. Those calls would help to drive committee goals by confirming where outreach was necessary.

“I only knew him for the last year or so, but he was so exceptionally kind. I was nervous joining the committee as a Young Fellow when everyone else was so accomplished and more experienced,” said Jessica Burgess, MD, FACS, an ACS Young Fellows Association representative on the Patient Education Committee. “Dr. Daly was so kind and welcoming. It was truly a pleasure to get to know him and work with him.”

Dr. Daly (far left) participating at a congressional roundtable on opioids


Dedication to family

Dr. Daly maintained an impressive balance between personal and professional time, always making it a priority to spend time with his grandchildren; golf with his sons; and walk with his daughter, Maureen Moore, MD, who also is a surgeon, to take in the sights during the annual ACS Clinical Congress.

Dr. Moore recalled that when Dr. Daly would take her and her siblings on rounds on weekends, he would know which patient rooms they could enter, or when they would have to stay at the nurses’ station. She remembered how Dr. Daly would sit at the end of the bed, often rubbing the patient’s feet, and how he always spoke to his patients at eye level to truly look at and listen to them.

Dr. Daly (third from right) with his children, from left: Brian, John, William (Billy), Dr. Moore, Timothy, and Patrick

“My dad was always willing to help, and he would drop anything to help,” Dr. Moore said. “He was so humble, and you would never know about all of his accomplishments.”

She explained that the College was very important to her father. Dr. Daly had recently asked Dr. Moore for her Surgical Education and Self-Assessment Program book. Upon asking Dr. Daly why he wanted to get recertified, he said, “I have to study and get [recertified]—I want it on my grave that I am a practicing surgeon.”

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