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The Society of Surgical Oncology Remembers Legend and Past President, Edward Meadors Copeland, III, MD

The Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) lost a legend in the field with the passing of Edward Meadors Copeland, III, MD.

Dr. Copeland exemplified leadership, dedicating his life’s work to not only his patients but also to the field of surgical oncology at large. He served as president of SSO from 1998-1999. “Dr. Copeland is an icon in the field of surgical oncology. He gave so much to cancer care and to the SSO. He made all of us better doctors and people,” said current SSO President, Ronald P. DeMatteo, MD, FSSO.

Dr. Copeland served as a Major in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in a combat zone. Later, he completed an advanced senior fellowship in cancer surgery at the MD Anderson Cancer Center where he remained on the faculty, earning the rank of professor. While there, Dr. Copeland led the National Bowel Cancer Project for the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Copeland came to the University of Florida College of Medicine in 1982 and was professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery until 2003. During this time, Dr. Copeland served as interim dean of the College of Medicine (1996) and as Director of the UF Shands Cancer Center (1994 to 1999). His research areas included surgical nutrition, metabolism, and tumor biology.

In addition to his successful career, Dr. Copeland dedicated himself to service. He was president of the Association for Academic Surgery, president of the Southern Surgical Association, chairman of the American Board of Surgery and chairman of the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons, and held many other national leadership positions during his career.

His bibliography numbers 472 published journal articles, 87 abstracts and editorials, and editor or co-editor of 23 books. He was a member of 17 editorial boards, including senior editor of the Yearbook of Surgery, associate editor of the Journal of Surgical Oncology, and co-senior editor of the well-respected text on breast diseases, The Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Diseases, now in its 6th edition. His legacy will live on through his editorial contributions and the impact he had on so many doctors in the field.

Suzanne Klimberg, MD, PhD, MSHCT, MAMSE, vice chair of surgical oncology, breast health, at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), remembers Dr. Copeland fondly: “Dr. Copeland and his late wife Martha had a tremendous impact on my life and many others. He engendered a family atmosphere within the residency and his life-long mentoring and sponsorship. We recently published the sixth edition of The Breast and renamed it in his and Dr. Kirby Bland’s honor. Bland and Copeland’sThe Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Disease.”

Dr. Copeland recently sat down with Dr. Bland for a discussion about his life, which is published online in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, and is available here.

Above all, Dr. Copeland valued relationships. He was a loving father and husband, but he also cared about his colleagues and mentees. When asked by Dr. Bland what advice he’d give to an aspiring young surgeon seeking leadership, Dr. Copeland responded: “You need to be a nice person.” He went on to explain that the most important way to gain leadership experience and reach your goals is to find people you work well with and foster those relationships.

Dr. Copeland will be remembered as a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. His contributions will continue to impact surgical oncology and the SSO for years to come.

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