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Dr. John Skandalakis

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Dr. John Skandalakis Obituary

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SKANDALAKIS, Dr. John DR. JOHN SKANDALAKIS John Skandalakis, longtime Atlanta surgeon and teacher to thousands of Emory medical students, lost a brave fight against leukemia on August 29, 2009. Born in 1920 in Molal, Sparta, Greece, Skandalakis was the youngest son of the district attorney for the area. Skandalakis earned his medical degree from the University of Athens. He served in the Greek Royal Navy from 1946 to 1950. Skandalakis fought in the Greek resistance during World War II. He often shared the story of hiding two Jewish residents of Athens from the Nazis under the altar of his neighborhood church during the occupation of Greece. He was awarded a medal by the Greek Government for his national underground activities in World War II. Skandalakis fought the Communists during the brutal Greek civil war that followed WWII. Many of his family and friends were murdered by the Communists, including his older brother, whose remains were only recently found. In 1950, Skandalakis married the former Mimi Cutis of Marietta and settled in Atlanta. He completed his training at Grady Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph's Infirmary, and Piedmont Hospital in 1956 where he served as Chief Resident. Additionally, he earned a doctorate in Anatomy from Emory University in 1962. In the course of his career at Emory, he served as Professor of Anatomy, Professor of Surgery, and Professor of Surgical Anatomy and Technique. Dr. Skandalakis was the Chris Carlos Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centers for Surgical Anatomy and Technique at Emory University School of Medicine. Skandalakis founded The Thalia and Michael Carlos Center for Surgical Anatomy and Technique, along with The Alfred A. Davis Research Center for Surgical Anatomy and Technique. He served as Director of both until his death. In 1996, The John E. Skandalakis Professor of Surgery Chair was established in his honor at the Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Skandalakis was also Clinical Professor of Surgery at The Medical College of Georgia and Mercer University School of Medicine. He authored over 300 diverse publications, including books, chapters, journal articles, and monographs. His three most famous books, "Embryology for Surgeons," "Anatomical Complications in General Surgery," and "Surgical Anatomy and Technique: a Pocket Manual," have been translated into many languages and are used in medical schools and hospitals around the world. Dr. Skandalakis loved teaching and emphasized to his students the exceptionalism of America and the opportunities that the United States provided him, advantages that he would not have been able to experience anywhere else in the world. However, Skandalakis' pursuits extended beyond academics. He started a surgical practice at Piedmont Hospital in 1956. He founded the Surgical and Medical Education Program at Piedmont Hospital, which allowed surgical residents from Emory to rotate through Piedmont for training. He retired from private practice in 1989. Dr. Skandalakis was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a founding member of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists and the American Hernia Society. Dr. Skandalakis was very active in his church, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. He served as President of the Parish from 1962 to 1973. He was primarily responsible for the building of the magnificent edifice on Clairmont Road. As President of the parish, he brought together opposing factions within Atlanta's Greek community and secured financing from Atlanta banks for the Parish to build the church with his signature alone. In 1967, he became an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, with the title GreatArchon Aktouarios and also an Archon of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. His involvement with the church on the Parish, Diocesan, Archdiocesan and Patriarchal level continued until his death. In 1981, Skandalakis was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia by Governor George Busbee. The only educator at that time to have a place on the Board, he became Chairman and was instrumental in the founding of the School of law at Georgia State University. An anonymous source has stated that "without Dr. Skandalakis' persistence, Georgia State would not have a law school, and would not be the fine institution of higher education it is today." In 1992, Dr. Skandalakis was honored with membership in the Academy of Athens, whose roots date back to the time of Plato. The Academy of Athens honors outstanding persons in the arts, sciences and humanities who have made significant contributions in these areas for the betterment of the world, and refers to them as "The Immortals." Skandalakis received the Phoenix Medal from the Greek Government for his efforts to improve the relationship between Greece and the United States. He was also an honorary member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1981, he received the Aven Cup from the Medical Association of Georgia for outstanding service to the community by a medical doctor. In 1999, Dr. Skandalakis received the Distinguished Medical Achievement Award from the Emory University School of Medicine. Mrs. Thalia Carlos, who along with her late husband, Michael, is one of the largest donors to the Emory Medical School, said that students write to her constantly about how they would never have gone into medicine if it were not for Dr. Skandalakis. "He was known for teaching Anatomy the old fashioned way," said Mrs. Carlos. In his later years, "Dr. Skan," as he was affectionately known in and out of medical circles, lectured extensively on anatomy all over the world. Dr. John Skandalakis was a member of the Sigma Xi fraternity, the Gridiron Club of the University of Georgia, and a lifelong member of the Republican Party. He is survived by his wife, Mimi Skandalakis; his daughter, Vickie Scaljon, son-in-law, Dr. William Scaljon; sons, Dr. Lee Skandalakis and Mitch Skandalakis; grandchildren, Michael William Scaljon, Mimi Ann Godwin, Lina Skandalakis, John Skandalakis II and grandson-in-Iaw, Jason Godwin all of Atlanta, and Angelique Skandalakis and Joanna Skandalakis of Wilmington, North Carolina; and his sister, Despina Skandalakis of Athens, Greece along with numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins in Atlanta and Athens, Greece. A prayer service will be held Tuesday evening at 7 pm with visitation from 5-7 pm at H.M. Patterson and Son - Spring Hill. Funeral services will be Wednesday, September 2 at 11 am at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, with interment following at Arlington Cemetery. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 2500 Clairmont Road, Atlanta, Georgia 30324.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Sept. 1 to Sept. 2, 2009
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