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PHOTO BY GLENN TRIEST
A longtime Sinai physician establishes a lecture
series to address issues of medical ethics.
ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM ASSOCIATE EDITOR
lfred Sherman knows just about
everything there is to know about
one of the most intimate aspect
of women's lives.
But don't look for him on the
talk-show circuit explaining
why women and men will nev-
er be able to understand one
Instead, this nationally
known physician can be
found day and night at
Val Sinai Hospital, where he
is director of gynecologic oncolo-
gy and former chairman of the
Dr. Sherman got into the field
after seeing too many patients di-
agnosed with cancer, their only
therapy "poor radiation treat-
ments which often left them
worse." He advocated surgery,
considered radical then, but to-
day the most successful method
of treating women's gynecologi-
Now Dr. Sherman hopes to ed-
ucate the public about ethical is-
sues within obstetrics and
gynecology. He and his wife, San-
dra, recently endowed an annu-
al lecture series at Sinai Hospital,
with the first program
set for Nov. 5. It will
feature former U.S.
Surgeon General Joce-
Dr. Sherman was
born in Canada, where
he had absolutely no
dreams of becoming a
school, he joined up
with his father's clothing busi-
ness (which is still open today,
with his brothers in charge).
"After one year I couldn't stand
it anymore," he says. "I had to es-
Where else but school?
But his decision came right
around Labor Day — late into the
admissions process — and only
a few universities were accepting
applicants for the second semes-
ter. The choices were clear: He
could become a dentist or a doc-
tor. The teeth lost out.
After completing medical
school in 1944 at the University
of Toronto, Dr. Sherman had a
senior internship and residency
in Hamilton, Ontario, before
heading off for the University of
Rochester in New York, where he
held a fellowship in pathology.
In 1947 he moved to St. Louis,
Mo., when Dr. Willard Allen
asked him to come on board at
Washington University. He
served as an intern, resident and
fellow before joining the staff in
1951. He taught in the OB-GYN
department, directed the resident
program and in 1971 established
the school's first fellowship in fe-
• . • 2 3 4
male gynecological cancer, long why. Genetics play a part, so
before it became a specialty.
women whose family members
Little was known about gyne- have been diagnosed should be
cological malignancies when Dr. regularly screened.
Sherman began his study of
But genetics account for only
women's cancer. Surgery for about 10 percent of the cases, Dr.
those diagnosed with ovarian or Sherman says.
breast cancer was rare, and
Equally frustrating is breast
physicians hesitated entering the cancer. Although here, too, ge-
netics plays a part, most of those
"It looked so dismal," Dr. Sher- with the disease have no history
man says. "If you had one of 20 of breast cancer. Early treatment
patients who survived it was a can make a difference, "but it's
still a far cry from adequate can-
In 1967 Dr. Sherman came to cer control," Dr. Sherman be-
Detroit, accepting a position as lieves.
professor of OB-GYN with
He remains optimistic —
Wayne State University. Then thanks in large part to an inter-
he joined up with Sinai, serving national project to isolate genet-
as the hospital's first full-time ic chromosomes, set to be
chief of OB-GYN, where he completed in 1996. "Within the
trained more than 100 gyneco- next five years I think we will be
able to identify those women who
Dr. Sherman says that a great will develop cancer of the breast
deal of cancer is curable. He and the ovary," Dr. Sherman
points to cancer of the cervix, once says. "Technology is booming."
a leading killer. Today, thanks to
Meanwhile, he continues to try
the Pap smear, the disease can and counter a popular miscon-
be caught in its initial stages. ception that "cancer" is synony-
Once diagnosed, early treatment mous with the word "death."
can almost always eradicate the
"I tell patients that yes, they
have cancer, but here's what has
A key to avoiding cancer is to be done. The majority of
knowing your risks, Dr. Sherman women diagnosed with cancer
says. The most likely candidates have a good chance of being
for gynecological cancer are post- cured."
menopausal women, those tak-
A great deal of his time is
ing estrogens unaccompanied by spent teaching, and Dr. Sher-
progesterone, and women who man's approach is that residents
are obese, diabetic or suffer with need to learn not only about
lasers and antibiotics but also
Of course, mystery remains. how to consider all aspects of a
Women from across the spectrurn woman's emotional well-being.
continue to contract cancer of the
"When residents come to me,
ovary, and no one is quite certain DOCTOR page 47
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