Surgical Society to Recognize Ken Forde’s Influence

Kenneth A. Forde has served in many roles in the 55 years since he graduated from the College of Physicians & Surgeons: accomplished surgeon, esteemed educator, loyal alumnus, trusted adviser, Columbia Trustee, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Trustee, and a noted pioneer in medicine.

On June 20, 2014, the John Jones Surgical Society’s annual spring meeting will focus on surgical topics that reflect Dr. Forde’s leadership in mentoring and academic surgery.

The society, an organization for individuals who have trained in surgery at Columbia, will include a tribute to Dr. Forde’s legacy during the group’s 14th annual spring meeting. The society is named for Dr. Jones, who was the first professor of surgery at P&S and author of the first surgical textbook published in the colonies. Dr. Jones also is credited with being one of five people who successfully petitioned the governors of King’s College, as it was called at that time, for a charter from King George III to establish the medical college.

The John Jones Surgical Society, established in 1997, has more than 600 members who preserve the history of the Department of Surgery at Columbia and of the hospital through newsletters, meetings, receptions at national meetings, and educational events. Dr. Forde co-founded and served as the first president of the society.

Along with two tributes to Dr. Forde—one by James Chandler, MD, the other by Eric Rose, MD—the June 20 meeting will feature speakers discussing their surgical passion or areas of expertise as they reflect on Dr. Forde’s influence as an educator, mentor, and pioneer at Columbia, nationally and internationally. The speakers include pioneers in their fields or individuals who were influenced by Dr. Forde’s role as educator and mentor.

Dr. Forde, a 1959 graduate of P&S, spent his entire career at Columbia. After training at the former Presbyterian Hospital, he joined the P&S faculty, rising to become professor of clinical surgery. He occupied the José M. Ferrer Chair in Surgery from 1997 to 2006. Upon his retirement, he became the José M. Ferrer Professor Emeritus of Clinical Surgery. Though retired from surgical practice, he has kept busy as a trustee of Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a member of the Columbia University Medical Center Board of Advisors.

Dr. Forde helped pioneer the use of endoscopy as a diagnostic and surgical tool; he was a member of one of the research teams to recognize the increased prevalence of polyps in first-degree relatives of colon-cancer patients and recommended routine colonoscopy screenings in this high-risk group. He has worked to raise awareness of colon cancer, efforts that included performing a colonoscopy in 2000 on Katie Couric, then co-host of the “Today Show.” He served as president of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (which he co-founded) and the New York Surgical Society. In 2002 he was president of the World Congress of Endoscopic Surgery.

For his teaching, he has been honored with several awards, including the Charles Bohmfalk Award for teaching in the clinical years. He was chosen Teacher of the Year three times by the Black and Latino Students Association, and the graduating class of P&S chose him as Distinguished Teacher of the Year. He has mentored more than 10 surgical trainees who have become prominent academic colorectal surgeons. As a visiting professor, he continues to inspire students and residents both at home and abroad.

For alumni leadership, Dr. Forde was named the 2007 Distinguished Alumnus by the Society of the Alumni of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. He has received the Columbia University Alumni Federation Medal and two medals from the P&S Alumni Association, the Gold Medal for Excellence in Clinical Medicine, and the Silver Medal for Meritorious Service. He served as president of the P&S Alumni Association from 1985 to 1987 and has served since medical school as co-chair of his class.

The Kenneth A. Forde Professorship in Surgery was established at Columbia in 1996 to honor his contributions to academic colorectal surgery. The Research Foundation of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons was a major donor to the professorship in recognition of his contributions to patients, medical students, and trainees.

Nov. 25, 2014, update: The symposium video is now available online.