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Paulo Sakai, MD, PhD, FASGE, was born in the small city of Maringá in the state of Paraná, in southern Brazil, and graduated from the School of Medicine of the Federal University of Paraná in 1970 (Author photo 1, Author photo 2; Video 1, available online at www.VideoGIE.org). He decided to specialize in general surgery, and in 1973 he also started a fellowship in GI endoscopy at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School, where the most important unit of endoscopy was being installed in Brazil under the direction of Dr Shinichi Ishioka. There he was invited to occupy the position of assistant professor at the University Hospital of the Medical School, where he started work in 1974 and continues to this day. During that period, he received his master’s degree, his PhD, and the position and title of Associate Professor of the Gastroenterology Department.
Brazilian Drs Ishioka and Pinotti, along with Japanese doctors from the National Cancer Center of Tokyo and Dr Nib Soehendra from Germany, were his mentors and inspiration throughout this time. From 1999 to 2011, Dr Sakai served as head of the section of GI endoscopy of the same institution. Since 2011, he has been the coordinator of the GI Endoscopy Division, including the 3 units of endoscopy of the University Hospital.
He was involved in endoscopic research and teaching for more than 40 years, has developed a teaching curriculum, and has mentored over 21 candidates for Master’s and PhD degrees at the University of Sao Paulo. He has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles as an author or coauthor, and his Google Scholar “h” index is 28. He was the editor of 7 books involving endoscopy, among which the most important is the Textbook of GI Endoscopy, a compendium of 4 volumes, which are presently in their 2nd edition and are used by most endoscopists in Brazil. Unfortunately, it was not published in Spanish and English because of the publisher’s restrictions (Author photo 3).
Dr Sakai is currently an international editorial board member of important journals such as Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, Endoscopy, Acta Endoscopica, and other Latin American journals of gastroenterology and endoscopy.
His relevant contribution to the field of GI endoscopy in South America in the 1970s and early 1980s was the systematization of the endoscopic treatment of esophageal varices through sclerotherapy, at a time before the advent of band ligation. He also had the opportunity to introduce in Brazil the use of cyanoacrylate glue for the treatment of gastric varices; this measure undoubtedly saved many lives.
In 1982, he performed the first treatment of Zenkeŕs diverticulum using a flexible endoscope in a patient unfit for general anesthesia and unfit for surgical treatment. With the patient under sedation and with a fiberoptic gastroscope, he could cut the septum that separates the esophageal lumen and the diverticulum using a homemade needle-knife. Over time, his research activities were extended to early GI cancer, GERD, obesity, duodenal exclusion for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, and other areas.
As one of the Latin American leaders in the field of GI endoscopy, his desire was always to spread the knowledge of diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy because of his concern about the very poor quality of endoscopy that was being done by doctors who were perhaps not particularly well trained. In addition to the regular 2-year residency and fellowship in endoscopy, he and his team have organized seminars, workshops, conferences, and the most important and fascinating program, the Annual International Course on Therapeutic Endoscopy, which is currently in its 27th edition. This event, which focuses on endoscopic technology and live demonstrations, has been transmitted by satellite for many years. Recently, the transmission has been made over the internet in high definition and in real time to all Latin American countries—and, it is important to say, without any charge to them, thus being a great contribution to people who need and make use of this information (Author photo 4).
Dr Sakai was granted several honorary titles in Latin America and has become an honorary member of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (Author photo 5). One of his greatest honors was to speak at the Endoscopy Magna Conference, to deliver the Schindleŕs Lecture during the World Congress of Gastroenterology and Endoscopy in Shanghai in 2013. He has participated in uncountable meetings and conferences in several countries (Author photo 6, Author photo 7, Author photo 8).
A particularly amusing situation occurred at the Beverly Hills Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles during a preprocedure interview with a patient's family. The patient’s wife told Dr Sakai that she was very happy because a Japanese doctor would be doing the procedure on her husband, not a Brazilian doctor, as she had been informed.
Dr Sakai has been married to Dr Maria, a gynecologist, for 42 years, and they have 3 children and 2 grandchildren (Author photo 9). He is currently preparing for retirement from the university but plans to continue his work at his private office.
The author disclosed no financial relationships relevant to this publication.