Cystic Fibrosis Pioneer Celebrates 100th Birthday
One of the world’s key researchers and practitioners in cystic fibrosis celebrated his 100th birthday with a dedication and party at Georgetown University Hospital.
August 19, 2011
(Washington, D.C.) – One of the world’s key researchers and practitioners in cystic fibrosis celebrated his 100th birthday with a dedication and party at Georgetown University Hospital.
Lucas Kulczycki, MD was born on August 19, 1911 in Poland. "Dr. K," as he is affectionately known by his colleagues and patients, escaped Poland as the Nazi’s marched through in September 1939 and literally walked over the Carpathian Mountains into Hungary, then to France and eventually across the English Channel to Liverpool and then to Scotland where he received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Kulczycki then emigrated to Canada to continue his medical studies and then went to Boston where he started to specialize in treating children with a severe respiratory disease known as cystic fibrosis. While in Boston, in 1958, he worked with Dr. Harry Shwachman to devise the Shwachman-Kulczycki Score for determining the severity of a patient’s cystic fibrosis. The Shwachman-Kulczycki Score is a tool still used by medical professionals today. In 1962, Dr. Kulczycki came to Washington, DC where he served as the director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center and a Professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine. At that time, children diagnosed with CF rarely lived longer than five years; today the average life expectancy is about 35 years.
As part of his 100th birthday celebration at Georgetown, Dr. K was introduced and affectionately roasted by his colleague of many decades, Joseph A. Bellanti, MD, professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical Center. “Dr. K is a role model for all of us in productivity and dedication to his patients," Dr. Bellanti remarked. "Those who know him have been touched by him.“
Dr. Kulczycki has received birthday greetings from his patients, his colleagues and leaders from all over the world.
“I greatly honor this privilege and thank you wholeheartedly for your comments,” said Dr. Kulczycki. “This is indeed the sum of my 100 years. It’s remarkable that one needs to live 100 years and listen to one’s achievements in one hour,” he quipped.
Many of Dr. Kulczycki’s cystic fibrosis patients have defied the odds of survival, they say, due to the groundbreaking treatments and excellent care they received from him. Some were on hand to wish their beloved Dr. K a happy birthday.
Kathleen Feeney, now 53, from Reston, Virginia was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age nine and started seeing Dr. Kulczycki as her physician in 1976. “Dr. K told my parents, ‘do not assume this child is going to die. Let her get outside and get exercise.’ They took his advice which I still follow today and that is to get out and live. I’ve adopted his philosophy and have been a happier person because of that.”
In February of 1962, Dr. Kulczycki recounted being at a medical meeting out of state when he got an emergency phone call about a very sick two month old boy who was in severe respiratory distress that was later diagnosed as cystic fibrosis by Dr. K. That child, David Lee, now of Philadelphia, was in the audience to wish Dr. Kulczyski a happy birthday. “I was so lucky to have the progressive and aggressive treatments that Dr. K researched and used to help his patients, most notably the bronchoscopies and bronchial washes that kept me from suffocating,” said David Lee, now 49. Lee has since gone on to pursue a career in the film and video industry and enjoy a family that includes his wife and young twin boys. “What you see as a man of small stature is a man I see of great importance and spirit. I wouldn’t have missed this celebration of Dr. K’s 100 years for anything.”
Dr. Kulczycki is retired from Georgetown but physicians treating cystic fibrosis patients say they still consult him on various topics. Dr. K has two children and three grandchildren. He comes from a family of six children, including a sister who is in her 90's and still lives in Poland.
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