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Lauren Ackerman

Born March 12, 1905(1905-03-12)
Auburn, New York
Died July 25, 1993 (aged 88)
New York City
Residence New York City
Nationality American
Fields Medicine & Pathology
Alma mater Hamilton College & University of Rochester
Known for Research in Surgical pathology

Lauren V. Ackerman (March 12, 1905 – July 27, 1993) was a prestigious American pathologist, who championed the subspecialty of surgical pathology in the mid-twentieth century.


Early life

Ackerman was born in March 1905 in Auburn, NY, to Bertha (née Vedder) and John Ackerman. Both of his parents were college graduates, a distinctly unusual accomplishment at that time. His father was a civil and mechanical engineer, who later became City Manager of Watertown, NY. Despite growing up in a learned family environment, Lauren was an indifferent student with mediocre grades [1]. After high school graduation in 1923 Ackerman began his college studies at St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY), later transferring to, and graduating from, Hamilton College (Clinton, NY) in 1927 with a B.S. degree in engineering. He worked for the next year in that profession, but then decided to pursue a medical career.[2]

Medical Education & Postgraduate Training

Lauren was accepted to the University of Rochester School of Medicine (Rochester, NY), then a new facility. It was staffed with very able faculty members who could provide virtually-individual attention to the students, a practice that Ackerman was to adopt himself in the future. After obtaining his M.D. in 1932, he served as an intern and resident in Internal Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) under the chairmanship of Dr. William Kerr. A year's sabbatical from training was necessary because Ackerman had contracted tuberculosis as a medical student. As a patient in a local sanitarium, he helped to pass the time by assisting at autopsies done on less fortunate cohorts [3].

After completion of his Medicine residency and board-certification in that discipline, Lauren decided to pursue additional specialty training in Pathology. He returned to the University of Rochester, working under the direction of Dr. George Whipple. After one year, Ackerman moved to Boston, MA as a resident working principally at the Pondville State Cancer Hospital. He completed his studies there in 1938, and married Elizabeth Fitts the same year [4].

Career in Missouri

With no available pathology positions in the offing, Dr. Ackerman accepted a position as assistant professor of Medicine back at UCSF in 1939. However, he was also responsible for performing autopsies there on patients who had died of pulmonary diseases. In 1940, a job in pathology was offered to Ackerman at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Hospital (EFCH) in Columbia, MO, a state-run center for indigent patients with malignancies. Because of his background in clinical medicine, he also had duties in electrocardiography and radiotherapy at EFCH. After several years of experience there, Ackerman authored his first book, "Cancer: Diagnosis, Treatment, & Prognosis", with Dr. Juan Del Regato, a radiotherapist.[5] A progressively-closer professional relationship grew with surgeons at nearby Barnes Hospital and Washington University in St. Louis, MO, several of whom also had appointments at EFCH. In 1948, Ackerman was offered a position at Barnes Hospital as the chief surgical pathologist and associate professor of Surgery, under the chairmanship of Dr. Evarts Ambrose Graham (it was then a common practice for surgical pathologists to be part of surgery faculties).

Dr. Ackerman accrued an ever-greater experience in diagnostic surgical pathology over the succeeding several years. In the early 1950s, he decided to apply that knowledge to the formulation of a textbook, which was essentially single-authored and published in 1953 with the simple title "Surgical Pathology".[6] Although other texts on the topic did exist—notably one by Dr. William Boyd[7] -- Ackerman's monograph was singular in that it focused on differential diagnosis and the clinical significance of morphologic findings. Accordingly, it rapidly drew attention and acclaim from other practicing pathologists.

Many peer-reviewed publications by Ackerman also were done on surgical pathological subjects throughout the early and mid 1950s. As a consequence, he received and accepted many invitations to present seminars around the world. During those travels, Ackerman was introduced to the best young pathologists that many countries had to offer, and several such individuals were invited to St. Louis to further their training with him. American physicians wishing to become surgical pathologists were also increasingly drawn to Barnes Hospital. Indeed, a steady stream of Ackerman-trained surgical pathology fellows emerged during the next 20 years, many of whom went on to become renowned practitioners and educators in their own rights. The Ackerman "method" involved thorough morphologic analysis, correlation of pathologic findings with detailed clinical information, and active consultation with attending physicians to assure optimal patient care.[8]

After a 25-year tenure, Lauren Ackerman retired as a professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in 1973.

Post-retirement in New York

Ackerman moved back to New York state with his wife, and took an adjunct faculty position at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (SUNY-SB). He continued to lecture actively at an international level, but he assigned editorship of his surgical pathology textbook to Dr. Juan Rosai, who has continued to oversee "Rosai & Ackerman's Surgical Pathology" through its ninth edition.[9]

Professional awards and honors

Numerous professional accolades were accorded Lauren Ackerman throughout his career. Those included the Theodore Caldwell Janeway Medal of the American Radium Society; the Fred W. Stewart Award from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City; the Gold-Headed Cane Award from the American Association of Pathologists; the Distinguished Service Award from Washington University; the Prix de Paris Award from the Institute Gustave-Roussy in Villejuif, France; and the City of Paris Award from Paris, France [10].

Personal life

Ackerman was a multifaceted individual aside from his medical activities. He was a skilled pool player; an avid fisherman and golfer; a lover of art, literature, and classical music; and a connoisseur of fine food and wine [11]. He had 3 daughters and a son; John Ackerman, Gretchen Ackerman O'Neal, Jennifer Ackerman Arndt, and Alison Ackerman, as well as 14 grandchildren [12]. His first wife Elizabeth died of complications of plasmacytic myeloma in 1981 [13]. Late in life, Dr. Ackerman married Dr. Carol Blum, a professor of French and Italian at SUNY-SB [14].


In mid-1993, Ackerman developed abdominal complaints and was found to have peritoneal carcinomatosis from a colonic cancer. He died on July 27 of that year [15].


  1. ^ Ackerman LV: Autobiographical notes of Lauren V. Ackerman. IN: Rosai J (Ed): Guiding the Surgeon's Hand, American Registry of Pathology, Washington, D.C., 1997; pp. 275-285.
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ Op cit., Ref. 1.
  4. ^ Op cit., Ref. 1
  5. ^ Ackerman LV, Del Regato JA: Cancer: Diagnosis, Treatment, & Prognosis, C.V. Mosby, St. Louis, 1947.
  6. ^ Ackerman LV: Surgical Pathology. C.V. Mosby, St. Louis, 1953.
  7. ^ Boyd W: Surgical Pathology, W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, 1925.
  8. ^ Dehner LP, Kissane JM: Surgical pathology at the Washington University Medical Center & Barnes Hospital. IN: Rosai J (Ed): Guiding the Surgeon's Hand, American Registry of Pathology, Washington, D.C., 1997; pp. 111-144.
  9. ^ Rosai J (Ed): Rosai & Ackerman's Surgical Pathology, 9th Ed., C.V. Mosby, St. Louis, 2004.
  10. ^ Op cit., Ref. 7.
  11. ^ Rosai J: Lauren V. Ackerman, M.D. Am J Surg Pathol 1994; 18: 211-213.
  12. ^, Accessed 10-4-2009.
  13. ^ Op cit., Ref. 1.
  14. ^ Kempson RL: A tribute to Lauren V. Ackerman. Cancer 1993; 72: 3137-3138.
  15. ^ Ibid.


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