Jonathan Evans Rhoads, M.D.
In memoriam 1907–2002
Version of Record online: 28 MAR 2002
Copyright © 2002 American Cancer Society
Volume 94, Issue 7, pages 1907–1909, 1 April 2002
How to Cite
Rombeau, J. L. (2002), Jonathan Evans Rhoads, M.D. Cancer, 94: 1907–1909. doi: 10.1002/cncr.10509
- Issue online: 28 MAR 2002
- Version of Record online: 28 MAR 2002
Jonathan Evans Rhoads died of gastric cancer on January 3, 2002 at the age of 94 in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where he had worked for nearly seven decades. Ironically, during his final hospitalization he received intravenous feeding, the beneficiary of his own seminal research, and was a patient in the pavilion named in his honor in 1994. The son of a Quaker physician whose ancestors had been present in Philadelphia since the 1600s, he attended Quaker schools (including Westtown School and Haverford College) before obtaining his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1932. Dr. Rhoads entered the Department of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania as an intern in 1932 and remained there for the next 69 years. He served as Provost of the University of Pennsylvania (1956–1959) and John Rhea Barton Chairman of the Department of Surgery (1959–1972). He was the quintessential surgeon, possessing a keen intellect, unfailing memory, superb surgical skills, and an irrepressible curiosity coupled with a covert desire to become the best surgeon in the world. Dr. Rhoads excelled in clinical surgery, teaching, clinical research, and administration. In addition, he was an avid participant in local, national, and international organizations.
At the time of his death, Jonathan Rhoads was perhaps the world's most honored surgeon. In the bicentennial year of 1976 he was recognized for his contributions to civic and scientific matters with the prestigious Philadelphia Award, which was symbolic of the city's first citizen, Benjamin Franklin. Some of his special awards include the Distinguished Service Award of the American Cancer Society, the Roswell Park Medal, the Strittmatter Award of the Philadelphia County Medical Society, the American Cancer Society National Award, the Joseph Goldberger Award of the American Medical Association for Clinical Nutrition, the Distinguished Service Award of the American Surgical Association, the Papanicoloau Award, the American Medical Association Sheen Award for Scientific Accomplishment, the Prix de la Societe Internationale de Chururgie, an Honorary Benjamin Franklin Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, the Cosmos Club Award and the Benjamin Franklin Award of the American Philosophical Society, the Surgeon General's Medal, and the Distinguished Service Award of the Philadelphia College of Physicians. In addition, Dr. Rhoads received honorary degrees at 11 universities and was awarded honorary memberships by the surgical colleges of 9 nations. A few of the many professional organizations of which he served as president or chairman include the American College of Surgeons, the American Surgical Association, the Society of Clinical Surgery, the American Philosophical Society, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the American Cancer Society, the Society of Surgical Chairmen, the Society of Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, and the Philadelphia Academy of Surgery.
However, Dr. Rhoads' most important research legacy is the discovery of intravenous feeding (total parenteral nutrition). This discovery made it possible for patients to receive their total nutrient requirements completely by the intravenous route when they were unable to be fed either orally or enterally. This important contribution was the culmination of 30 years of research by many investigators in the Harrison Department of Surgical Research at the University of Pennsylvania. Intravenous feeding has both directly and indirectly saved thousands of lives and is used in major medical centers throughout the world. This contribution was an enormous success, particularly in the context of Dr. Rhoads' definition of success. At his 80th Birthday Symposium on May 9, 1987, he stated that “Success is not so much in the plaudits of one's contemporaries as in the degree to which one's ideas and concepts become imbedded in one's discipline.”1 The importance of this contribution was aptly described by the late Francis D. Moore: “Jonathan was a man not content with the accoutrements or vestments of honors, achievements, and professorship. He took off his suit, donned his scrub clothes, rolled up his sleeves, and delved into the blood and guts, not only of surgical care to alleviate suffering, but of science, to advance knowledge … The world owes this advance [intravenous feeding] to Jonathan Rhoads. It was one of his several peaks. Just as the loftiness of peaks in a mountain range rise as you recede from the range and can see them in perspective, so also this advance of Jonathan's has become clearly more and more preeminent as the years have passed.”2
Dr. Rhoads was particularly interested in cancer. He was the President of the American Cancer Society (1969–1970) and Chairman of the National Cancer Advisory Board (1972–1979). In 1972 he was appointed Editor of Cancer, a position he held for 20 years. During Dr. Rhoads' tenure the circulation of Cancer increased from 13,000 to 22,000. Dr. Rhoads humbly acknowledged that the principal reason for this increase was the 1971 Cancer Act, which resulted in a marked acceleration of federal expenditures for cancer research, thereby contributing to increased manuscript submissions. Moreover, the paucity of other cancer specialty journals and societies at the time led to Cancer being the preeminent journal of cancer in the world. In 1992, Robert V. P. Hutter, M.D., the succeeding Editor of Cancer, wrote: “Dr. Rhoads' professional stature is commensurate with his physical stature: he towers over most. And those who knew him well appreciate that his reserved professional demeanor is tempered by a delightfully subtle sense of humor.”3 A Festschrift honoring his 90th birthday was organized by Drs. Stanley J. Dudrick and John M. Daly and was published in Cancer in 1997.1
Dr. Rhoads' greatest contributions cannot be quantified in numbers or deduced from his textbooks and research publications. His compassion and concern for his patients, colleagues, and friends was immeasurable. Regardless of the magnitude of the problem or severity of the issue, he always was there to listen and devise a solution. Fortunately, these qualities continue to be perpetuated by his countless students, colleagues, and associates. He was the surgeon each of us aspires to become.
In 1936 Dr. Rhoads married Teresa Folin, a classmate at Johns Hopkins and the daughter of the famed Harvard biochemist Otto Folin, the codiscoverer of the method used to measure blood sugar (the Folin–Wu test). Teresa Rhoads died in 1987. In 1990 at age 83, Jonathan Rhoads married Katharine Evans Goddard. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Margaret Kendon; sons Jonathan E. Jr., George, Ed- ward, Philip, and Charles; 12 grandchildren; and 5 great-grandchildren.