Microscopic study of the cells in our bodies is what Cytotechnology is all about. Taking our cells, putting them on a slide and reading them with a computerized microscope gives the Cytotechnologist the ability to visualize and detect abnormalities in our cells which indicate early disease and cancer.
We celebrate National Cytotechnology Day in honor of Dr. Papanicolau, his birthday is May 13, 1883. He was born in Kimi on a small island in Greece. Dr. Papanicolaou later went on to be educated at Athens University where he majored in … you guessed it … Music! Somewhere along the way, with his father’s influence (who was a physician) he decided to major in medicine. In 1904 he graduated with top honors. He then went on to the University of Munich in Germany where he received his PhD in Zoology. After that he cared for leprosy patients outside his hometown ,and served time in the military.
In 1912 he enrolled in the military in the medical corps. He emigrated to New York in 1913, after the Balkan War broke. Dr. Papanicolau wanted to pursue a career in the United States. After emigrating he was a violinist at a local restaurant, and had several stints in basic Lehman jobs. Finally in 1914 he gained a position at NYU’s Pathology Department and the Cornell University Medical College Anatomy Department. During this time he discovered that he could time animals reproductive vaginal secretions smear them on a slide and see malignant vs. normal cells. Later he went on to publish a book with a colleague on Uterine Cancer Detection. He began to study more of the reproductive cytology in humans. Many years later he would invent a test called the Papanicolau test aka the “Pap smear”, which revolutionized early cervical cancer detection!
This screening test became one of the most revolutionizing tests in early cancer detection. Now thanks to him, many women now have a chance to fight this life threatening disease. Thank you Dr. Papanicolau! Today and everyday we celebrate you!