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Fighting for Life

Barbara Bensoussan

He was a German refugee who spent the war years in the Philippines and never set foot in a classroom until third grade. But the late start didn’t hamper Dr. Yashar Hirshaut, who went on to become a top-tiered oncologist shepherding cutting-edge research, and in an age of for-profit medicine, tenaciously staying focused on putting his patients first.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Once upon a time, being a doctor in America meant that you knew your patients and their families. You might even have made house calls, and patients never felt rushed out of the office. These days, the wise, caring, Marcus Welby-type doctor is an endangered species, but there are a few still left.Dr.YasharHirshaut is one of them. ButDr.Hirshaut is much more than that. He’s a brilliant, top-notch oncologist, a doctor’s doctor who has produced important research of his own while simultaneously midwifing cutting-edge discoveries through his stewardship of the Israel Cancer Research Fund. Drugs such as Velcade for multiple myeloma, Doxil for breast and ovarian cancers, Herceptin, which reduces breast cancer recurrence, and Gleevec, a drug that directly targets cancer cells, all came out of ICRF research. So did important advances in BRCA gene research, as well as the p53 gene, whose mutation is associated with the development of most cancers. The patriarch of a large family and now at an age where some people retire,Dr.Hirshaut continues to work extremely long hours, often visiting patients in Manhattan late at night before returning to his home in Lawrence, New York. He divides his time between Lenox Hill,BethIsrael, Mount Sinai, New York and Cornell Hospitals, and runs a private practice from a traditionally furnished office facing Central Park on Fifth Avenue. Today the office is quiet, but that’s not the usual state of affairs. “UsuallyDr.Hirshaut’s office is chaotic,” says current ICRF chairmanKennethGoodman. “His staff protects him, and it takes time to get in to see him. But once you’re in, he gives you all the time you need.”

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