We remember Dr. Paul Walfish who passed away this past weekend and the significant contributions he made to medical science and clinical care on a global scale. Our thoughts are with his family and he will be missed by his colleagues and patients.
Dr. Walfish was a pioneer in the treatment of thyroid disease and had a prolific career at Mount Sinai Hospital that spanned over 50 years. During his career, he helped put Mount Sinai on the map as a leader in the field of head and neck diseases, including thyroid cancer. He was deeply committed to exploring new questions and finding innovative strategies to improve the lives of those touched by thyroid disease.
Dr. Walfish has been a game-changer in the field of thyroid cancer. In 1965, after establishing the Nuclear Medicine Department at Mount Sinai, he and his colleagues at Mount Sinai pioneered studies in North America using fine needle biopsy and ultrasound technology on thyroid nodules for the early detection of thyroid cancer. He also pioneered a new testing method that can determine whether radioactive iodine treatment is required following thyroid cancer surgery. These new techniques armed clinicians with enhanced tools and knowledge, essentially revolutionizing the management and treatment of thyroid cancer in North America.
Dr. Walfish’s many discoveries have not only reshaped clinical care at Mount Sinai, but they have also had international impact. As a clinician and researcher, he exemplified how the research conducted within a hospital setting makes its way to the patient’s bedside, with innovative approaches to treatment and care.
Dr. Walfish was named to the Order of Canada in 1990 for his contributions to medicine and the Order of Ontario, the province's highest honour, in 2007 for establishing a newborn screening program, a landmark procedure that detects congenital hypothyroidism in infants - a thyroid condition that can cause brain damage, mental disability and growth failure. Since its discovery, the test has been adopted by hospitals around the world.
Shellianne Bedder Green has been a longtime friend, patient and Chair of the Da Vinci Gala, an annual fundraising event for thyroid care and research. Shellianne said that he was proud of his work and continued his research even in his last months. “Dr. Walfish’s whole purpose in life was to save lives,” she said. “And he did.”