This year’s Roll of Fame Award is being presented to Dr. Jackson Bowers Beecham, Class of 1960. This presentation was written by Syd Lea.
After graduating from CHA, Dr. Beecham attended Williams College and Temple Medical School. He then spent five years in postgraduate training in medicine, obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont. While there, he published the medical field’s first papers on the intrauterine diagnosis of prenatal liver dysfunction and the increased incidence of unilateral fallopian tube infection associated with a certain intrauterine device, a paper so persuasive that the device was taken off the market. Jack was also first to demonstrate the association of a complex blood clotting process with underlying organ damage in toxemia of pregnancy.
In 1972, Jack and a patient challenged a 122-year-old Vermont law prohibiting a physician from performing an abortion. In Beecham v. Leahy the Vermont Supreme Court overruled this statute and abortion became legal in Vermont one year before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. A conscientious objector during the Vietnam war, he had to bring suit against the Secretary of the Air Force in order to prove the sincerity of his moral beliefs. A new advanced field in gynecologic oncology was emerging in the 1970’s and Jack accepted two cancer fellowships in Oslo and Boston. His Norwegian research included an analysis of the world’s largest published series of ovarian granulosa cell tumors as well as the most extensive analysis of the infrequent but virulent small cell cancer of the cervix.
Jack founded two academic gynecologic oncology programs at the cancer centers of the University of Rochester and of Dartmouth College. Further publications included his anatomy-conserving approach to vulvar cancer and the use of honey dressings to speed healing in infected surgical incisions. Jack was a principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute’s collaborative gynecological cancer studies and worked with basic scientists in pursuing the discovery of an ovarian cancer antigen to assist early diagnosis and the laboratory growth of spherical ovarian cancer tumors for potential chemotherapy testing. He was invited to present his scientific work at meetings in North and South America, the British Isles, Scandinavia and southern Europe.
Jack trained over 100 residents and fellows in surgical, postoperative and medical -management as well as compassionate care of women whose disease could not be cured. He was chosen as a teacher of the year by medical students and residents at both institutions. At his retirement, Jack led the medical school faculty parade at Dartmouth’s graduation ceremonies and a new chief resident award for humanism was established in his honor.
It is with great pleasure that I present this year’s Roll of Fame Award to Dr. Beecham. Congratulations.