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Charles (Charlie) J. Lightdale is Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in the City of New York, and Attending Physician at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia Campus.
He was born in 1940 in Jersey City, N.J., the son of a lawyer who worked for the United States Treasury Department. He attended Princeton University, majoring in English literature, graduating summa cum laude in 1962, before going on to medical school at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (MD, 1966). A medical internship and residency at the Yale-New Haven Hospital followed this. He completed a senior residency at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center before entering the US Public Health Service, serving from 1969-1971 in Washington, D.C. and the US Virgin Islands.
He completed his fellowship in gastroenterology at Cornell University Medical College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from 1971-1973. After which, he remained on the full time staff rising to the rank of Professor of Medicine at Cornell and Attending Physician at Memorial Hospital. He returned to Columbia P&S in his current position in 1993.
Throughout his career, his central focus has been the prevention and early detection of gastrointestinal cancer. To this end, he has assisted in the development and advancement of endoscopic methods, most notably endoscopic ultrasonography, magnification endoscopy, polypectomy, mucosal resection, laser ablation, and photodynamic therapy. A major current interest is the diagnosis and management of Barrett's esophagus.
He served as Editor of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy for two terms from 1989-1996. Currently, he is the Consulting Editor for the Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Clinics of North America. He has authored and edited hundreds of publications, including original articles, books, monographs, chapters, and reviews. In 1999, he received the Rudolf Schindler Award, the highest honor of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
Dr. Lightdale is married to Reina S. Lightdale, who served as Managing Editor of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy during his tenure, and has four daughters: two physicians, a medical student, and a college senior.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- Until late in my senior residency training, I intended to be a cardiologist. In 1969, I chose gastroenterology as my last elective at New York Hospital, but to my chagrin another resident was assigned that rotation, and I was asked if I would mind going across York Avenue to Memorial Sloan-Kettering for my GI elective. It was a much smaller program, but I decided to give it a try. I was again distressed, however, to learn that the only GI Fellow had gone off for several weeks vacation. Of course, it was a great opportunity. I assumed the duties of a fellow, and learned how to pass one of the new Olympus fiberoptic gastroscopes. I was fascinated, and completely hooked by gastroenterology from that point on.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- There were two. First, Charles Flood at Columbia P&S, courtly and thoughtful, who taught me to understand the art in gastroenterology by patiently teaching me how to palpate an esophageal stricture with a dilator. Second, there was Paul Sherlock, who started the GI Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. He was an incredibly skilled physician and a master communicator, as well as a wonderful human being. He showed me that it was possible to take care of patients, carry out clinical research, and teach - all at the same time. I still do this, but it has become increasingly difficult in the current health care environment.
- Which research papers influenced you the most?
- Important books were Tio and Tytgat's Atlas of Transintestinal Ultrasonography (1986), which I studied like the Rosetta stone, and Kawai's Endoscopic Ultrasonography in Gastroenterology (1988). A key research paper was by Kimmey MB et al. (Gastroenterology 1989; 96: 433-41) demonstrating the histologic correlates to the 5-layer GI wall image obtained with high frequency endosonography. This paper was the basis for my continuing studies using EUS for GI cancer staging.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- Probably that endoscopic ultrasonography could be used to detect very small pancreatic endocrine tumors even when other imaging tests were negative (Cancer 1991; 68: 1815-20; New Engl J Med 1992; 326: 1721-6).
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- I didn't marry Reina sooner.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- I want to see major reductions in mortality from gastrointestinal cancer.
- How do you relax?
- In town, we go to the Met: the Museum or the Opera. I particularly enjoy the music of Mozart, especially his operas. Whenever possible, home or travelling, we take long walks.
- What is your favorite sport?
- Tennis, but I have a very recent interest in golf. Stay tuned.
- What is your best place in the world?
- New York, New York. It's worth saying twice. Infinite variety.
- What is your favorite film?
- I like too many to pick one. Small gems I think of are Local Hero and Last Holiday.
- What car do you drive?
- We like to keep our cars. I recently had to part with my beloved 1980 BMW 528i, a victim of winter road salt. Our 1987 Mercedes 300 station wagon is holding up much better, and has served our family well for more than 160 000 miles.
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- My digital camera, when I can get it away from my daughters.
- What book have you enjoyed reading recently?
- Homer's Odyssey, wonderful new translation by Robert Fagles.
- Why did you get in involved in GastroHep.com?
- Peter Cotton, Peter Cotton.