Charles J. Lightdale

        Dr Charles J. Lightdale (Author photo 1, Author photo 2, Author photo 3, Author photo 4, Author photo 5, Author photo 6, Author photo 7, Author photo 8, Author photo 9; Video 1, available online at developed an early interest in medicine that was unfortunately sparked by the unexpected death of his father at age 50. At the time, young Lightdale was 13 years old and intently observed the doctors trying to help. In high school, he pursued science and also developed a love for literature and writing, guided by memorable teachers in both English and physics. These 2 passions came together in 2 national writing contests that he entered and won (1 for a short story called “The Center of Gravity”). At Princeton, Dr Lightdale continued to combine his love for writing with science, which was unusual at the time. In 1962, he graduated summa cum laude in English literature while also taking pre-med requirements and even finding joy in organic chemistry.
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        Author photo 1Dr Lightdale with H. Worth Boyce at the EUS Users Meeting in 1988.
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        Author photo 2Dr Lightdale performing diagnostic laparoscopy in 1990.
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        Author photo 3Dr Lightdale with Peter D. Stevens performing EUS in 1993.
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        Author photo 4Original drawing by Al Hirschfeld: Charles and Reina Lightdale and their 4 daughters (1990). (As was characteristic of Hirschfeld, the word “Nina” is hidden 3 times in the art work.)
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        Author photo 5Lightdale family in Vermont, 1998. From left to right: Jenifer, Hallie, Reina, Charles, Nina, Sarah.
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        Author photo 6On a panel discussing photodynamic therapy for dysplasia in Barrett’s esophagus in Avignon, 2000.
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        Author photo 7Dr Lightdale with Haruhiro Inoue and Stavros Stavropoulos in Athens, 2012.
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        Author photo 8Dr Lightdale with Columbia Physicians and Surgeons medical student, Brittany L. Baldwin-Hunter, and Columbia University Medical Center colleague Dr Julian A. Abrams, in front of their Digestive Disease Week poster presenting a Barrett’s esophagus screening project, in Washington, DC, 2018.
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        Author photo 9Lightdale family gathering on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, in 2015.
        Dr Lightdale first encountered the subspecialty field of gastroenterology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he was mentored as a medical student by Charles Flood, a founding member of the American Gastroscopic Club, which eventually became the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE). He distinctly remembers observing the elegant Dr Flood expertly perform an esophageal dilation.
        In 1966, Dr Lightdale matched for internal medicine residency at Yale-New Haven Medical Center, where mentors in clinical gastroenterology and hepatology included Howard Spiro, Gerald Klatskin, and Harold Conn. As a third-year resident he transferred to New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center for the ultimate reason. As he puts it, “The reason for this change was to be closer to Reina, who had a great job at NBC News.” The move paid off: Charles married Reina, his high school prom date, on September 8, 1968, and notes that “together with our 4 terrific daughters, their equally terrific spouses, and 9 wonderful grandchildren, we are about to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.”
        Dr Lightdale has wonderful memories of 1968 to 1969 as a postgraduate 3rd-year resident in New York, rotating between senior residency stints and exposures to various subspecialties. On most days, he met Reina at 30 Rockefeller Center at 7:00 PM, just after the evening news program, and they would explore the city together. His rotation in gastroenterology occurred at the very end of that halcyon year and was arranged by his chief resident, Anthony Fauci, to take place across the street from New York Hospital at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where Paul Sherlock was heading up a new program in gastroenterology. Coincidentally, the sole GI fellow in the program was on vacation that month, giving Dr Lightdale the opportunity to actively participate in performing upper-GI endoscopy using some of the first commercial fiberoptic endoscopes. To this day, he notes, “I have never lost the sense of wonder and excitement I felt during those early endoscopies.”
        For the next 2 years (1969 to 1971), Dr Lightdale served his country in the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington, DC, where he first encountered H. Worth Boyce, Chief of GI at Walter Reed, who became another key mentor. Dr Lightdale returned to New York as a GI fellow in a newly combined Cornell/Memorial Program and then stayed on the faculty at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for 20 years, becoming Professor of Medicine at Cornell. In 1993, he returned to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center as Director of Clinical Gastroenterology and Professor of Clinical Medicine.
        Dr Lightdale has remained at Columbia for the past 25 years as an active faculty member and has enjoyed mentoring many GI fellows. He has fond memories of all of them, and he states that he has had “many excellent fellows who have gone on to advance our field.” However, he is also clear that his first GI fellow in 1993 at Columbia, Peter D. Stevens, will always stand out to him as the most extraordinary. Dr Lightdale recalls that “Pete stayed on at Columbia after his fellowship and became a treasured colleague. Pete’s legacy was to establish our strong presence in interventional endoscopy before his tragic death at age 49.”
        Over his career, Dr Lightdale has authored some 130 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and has written 290 reviews, editorials, and chapters. He also has used his English skills as a medical editor. Most notably, he served 2 consecutive 4-year terms (1988-1996) as Editor-in-Chief of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the official journal of the ASGE. “Those years were a period of rapid growth for endoscopic research,” he recalls, “and manuscripts were flooding in to the journal. As its Editor, I had to learn how to become more selective and identify studies that could help advance endoscopic science. As we steadily increased page counts, I was able to transition the journal from a bimonthly to a monthly publication—a landmark change—critical in maintaining GIE as the premier publication for gastrointestinal endoscopy.”
        Dr Lightdale’s driving vision throughout his career has been to use the power of endoscopy for prevention, early detection, and treatment of GI cancer. According to Dr Lightdale: “During my own endoscopic odyssey, I was especially privileged to be among the first in the U.S. to perform and develop endoscopic ultrasonography, now widely recognized as a highly effective diagnostic and therapeutic tool.” His main interest from early on has been diseases of the upper-GI tract. In particular, he has concentrated on Barrett’s esophagus and on the diagnosis and treatment of esophageal adenocarcinoma. Identifying ways to prevent upper-GI cancers continues to be the paramount focus of his research.


        The author disclosed no financial relationships relevant to this publication.

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