DR. JOHN KALIL "JACK" ERBAN III
1955 - 2020
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ERBAN, Dr. John Kalil III Physician, Researcher, Mentor and Family Man In the 1990 book In Mysterious Ways: The Death and Life of a Parish Priest, author Paul Wilkes chronicled the life of Catholic priest Father Joseph Greer as he underwent treatment for multiple myeloma at New England Medical Center, now Tufts Medical Center. Wilkes wrote about a resident fellow who at the time was serving as Father Greer's primary care physician, describing him as "…a perennially smiling young man whose tousled brown hair seems constantly in need of a trim. From the first meeting he insisted on being called 'Jack'." Dr. John Kalil Erban, III, "Jack" to all except his two grandchildren who lovingly called him "Jiddo," was an internationally recognized oncologist. He was a leader in developing and conducting groundbreaking clinical trials for breast cancer, a devoted clinician to patients, and a beloved mentor to medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues. Jack died on September 2, 2020 at the age of 65 at home in Wakefield. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma in August 2019. His cruel disease was unrelenting, but he fought it bravely, with the same hope he always offered his patients. Jack was the son of the late John K. and Najla T. (Maloof) Erban, both children of Lebanese immigrants to this country, and grew up in North Andover. He was a graduate of the Brooks School (1973), Harvard University (1977) and Tufts University School of Medicine (1981). He completed residency and chief residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, spending two formative years in between with the National Health Service Corps in rural Florida. After completing a fellowship in hematology and oncology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Jack joined the professional staff and was appointed to the faculty at Tufts Medical School, where he later reached the rank of Professor of Medicine. He served in many leadership roles at Tufts Medical Center during his career, including Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and Co-Director of the Breast Cancer program. From 2007-2010, he served as Director of Clinical Programs for the Breast Oncology Center at the Massachusetts General Cancer Center, and was Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He returned to Tufts thereafter as the Clinical Director and Associate Director for Clinical Sciences for the Tufts Medical Center Cancer Center. Jack's upbringing as part of a close immediate and extended family influenced his approach to patient care. In remarks to Anthony Tjan for his book Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, Jack said, "I was raised in a family where everyone was treated equally, and it left a mark that led to a sense of equity being important to me. Medicine is very hierarchical, and equity can suffer easily. I bring to the patient the same level of care and attention I'd want for myself." Jack's compassion for patients was evident early in his medical career. As a medical student, he received the Mildred Ann Meyerson Award for Excellence in Patient Care, an accolade that brought his parents almost as much pride as the awarding of his medical degree. During Jack's illness, the separation from his patients and their needs was as difficult for him as was his own diagnosis. His first experiences with cancer were personal: his paternal aunt and mother were diagnosed with, and eventually succumbed to, breast cancer. In conversations with his daughter, Jack shared thoughts about his decision to choose oncology as a field of study. "The closeness to patients, the high energy required, the complexity of cancer and the rigorous science were appealing to me when I was deciding what specialty to pursue, and 40 years later, I still feel the same." Two colleagues who worked with Jack for over 25 years at both Tufts and Mass General witnessed his unwavering devotion to teaching and mentoring. Cristine Gourley, his administrative assistant, said, "Jack loved teaching. I observed him many times with residents and fellows. Despite his brilliance, he was never condescending. When they would answer a question, he would say 'Why do you think that?'" Marybeth Singer, a nurse practitioner, commented, "Jack was a generous teacher, mentor and friend. He trained many medical clinicians and modeled what exemplary practice and patient care should be. He was so proud of the work we did to build the role of nurse practitioners within the Division of Hematology and Oncology, and he was my biggest cheerleader as I took on roles within my professional organizations locally and nationally." Jack believed in service to the community. For almost 30 years, he was the volunteer medical editor for Tufts Medicine, the school's alumni publication. He was also a member of the board of directors for two institutions which reflected his values about prevention and treatment: Silent Spring Institute and The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care. For 24 years, Jack served on the board of the Silent Spring Institute, named in tribute to Rachel Carson, whose landmark book of the same name helped launch the modern environmental movement. Dr. Julia Brody, Silent Spring's Executive Director and Senior Scientist, said, "Back in the 1990s, scientists began discovering that common chemicals – in everything from baby bottles to furniture – could interfere with estrogen. Jack was exceptional in realizing right away the profound implications for breast cancer and was instrumental in guiding our research on the role of chemicals in the disease. He cared deeply for his patients, driven by an extraordinary commitment to always seek the best science on how to beat cancer, including preventing it in the first place." The Cam Neely Foundation was launched in 1995 by Boston Bruins President and alumnus Cam Neely after he lost both of his parents to cancer. Jack began working with the foundation in the early 2000s in support of the Neely House and continued to work with the foundation until his passing. Cam and his wife Paulina, president and vice president respectively of the foundation, shared this remembrance: "Jack was a man with a heart of gold who always went above and beyond to be of service to those in need. He was an irreplaceable friend and ally to the foundation and we will forever miss his charm, his smile, his smarts, and the future with him. An incredible physician who was ahead of his time, Jack will always be remembered for the impact his family had on our family and our foundation. There will never be another one like him." Jack's family was a source of profound joy and pride, and he loved nothing more than to be surrounded by them. He and his wife Lisa hosted more than 40 relatives each Christmas for over 25 years at their home in Wakefield, the town where Lisa grew up and which he happily adopted as his own. When their children were young, Jack could be found with a hammer in his hand helping his sons build a leprechaun trap or a lemonade stand. He derived enormous pleasure from his children's involvement in the arts, attending their plays, concerts and marching band performances. His own music tastes ranged from Queen to Mozart. He never missed an Erban cousins' party and relished big family cookouts in the summer on Cape Cod. He loved rollerblading around Lake Quannapowitt, often several laps at a time. When he reluctantly stopped rollerblading due to his illness, he continued to walk the lake when he could with his son Stephen. Lisa and Jack's circle of friends was wide, especially in Wakefield. He was quick to laugh or offer a wry joke in the comfort of friends and family. Jack is survived by wife Lisa (Benoit) Erban, three children and their spouses, Dr. Laura Erban and Adam Titrington, John K. Erban, IV and John Varitimidis, and Stephen Erban, two grandchildren Henry and Eloise Erban Titrington, brother Stephen B. Erban MD and wife Catherine Phillips MD, sisters Nancy Carpenter and husband Kenneth and Barbara Weinstein and husband Lewis, mother-in-law June (Marquis) Benoit of Peabody, and many nephews, nieces and cousins, all of whom feel the enormous loss from his passing. A private Funeral Service has been held. The family hopes to have a Celebration of Jack's Life when pandemic restrictions are lifted. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in honor of Dr. Jack Erban to Silent Spring Institute online at silentspring.org/support-our-work or to The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care online at camneelyfoundation.org/ways-to-give-2

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Published in Boston Globe from Sep. 16 to Sep. 18, 2020.
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