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John G. Azzopardi

James DeGaetano writes...

John G. Azzopardi passed away on January 2 at the age of 83 years.

The name of John Azzopardi is immediately recognisable by any histopathologist anywhere in the world and that is because of the immense contribution he has made in the field of pathology, in particular, breast pathology.

Much of what we know today about cancer of the breast can be traced back to his tireless and perspicacious observations during the long years he spent working at the Hammersmith Hospital in London.

This culminated in his famous book Problems in Breast Pathology, which, although written in 1979, is still relevant today and is recommended reading to pathologists starting out in the field of breast pathology.

He was a brilliant pathologist with meticulous attention to detail. He was an extraordinary teacher with a passion and enthusiasm for the subject that was infectious. His anecdotes are too many for me to recall them all and his erudite observations have become the working bread and butter of countless pathologists around the world.

Despite his colossal status in the field of pathology, he was a humble and modest man. He had a great interest in people, which endeared him to many. A few years back, on one of my visits to him, I started talking about a case I had seen. He stopped me in my tracks and said: “first things first” whereupon he asked me about news of my wife and kids, whose names he always remembered, and until I gave him a complete update, we didn’t begin our discussion.

His humaneness was humbling.

One of the greatest testaments to the esteem in which he was held was in 2006, when a one-day meeting held in Malta to celebrate his achievements was overwhelmingly attended by famous pathologists from all around the world just for them to have the opportunity to meet this great man.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been taught by him and even more fortunate to have become his friend.

To his wife Sally, to his children Joanna and Timothy and to his grandchildren, I would like, also on behalf of the Malta College of Pathologists, to express my deepest condolences. They will live the rest of their lives proud in the knowledge that their dear Professor John Azzopardi has left a worldwide legacy that few can equal.

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