Juan A. del Regato, MD, 1909 – 1999
Juan Angel del Regato was one of the most revered physicians in the history of American radiotherapy. He was born, raised and educated in Cuba, and undertook the study of medicine at the University of Havana from 1926 to 1930. When the University was closed due to political controversy in 1930, he continued his studies at the University of Paris. He received his medical degree in 1937 with a medal-winning thesis on the successful radiotherapy of inoperable cancers of the maxillary antrum. Following a two-year course, he received the Diploma of Radiophysiology and Radiotherapy of the University of Paris. During this time, he served as an assistant at the Radium Institute of Paris and came to know the great pioneers of radiation treatment—Henri Coutard, Claudius Regaud, Marie Curie, Antoine Lacassagne, Antoine Béclère and other founders in the field of radiation therapy. Early in 1938 Dr. del Regato came to the United States, bringing with him the Paris tradition of specialization at a time when there were only a handful of American physicians who practiced radiation therapy exclusively. He also carried on their traditions of research, international cooperation and dedication to medical education.
Starting in 1940, Dr. del Regato served as a Research Fellow at the National Cancer Institute and then took the position of Director of Radiotherapy at the Ellis Fischel State Cancer Hospital in Columbia, Missouri in 1943. He became the founding Director of the Penrose Cancer Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1949 and held the position until 1974. He then joined the faculty of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida first as Professor of Radiology and then Professor Emeritus of Radiology in 1981. He was also a distinguished physician of the Veterans Administration.
Dr. del Regato is recognized as a historian in the field, writing about oncologists and medical physicists, chronicling their contributions to the discipline, as if he were an intimate, but objective friend of each—which, in fact, he was. His work produced books, articles and reviews enhancing the understanding of people, places and events behind the development of the field.
Dr. del Regato founded the American Club of Therapeutic Radiologists in 1958, a club with 56 initial members. This club of radiotherapists met periodically and grew in number to become the American Society of Therapeutic Radiologists and ultimately to the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO). His efforts with international organizations and with colleagues around the world opened up new avenues of communication as radiation oncology changed and expanded.
Dr. del Regato received numerous honors and awards throughout his professional career including gold medals from the Radiologic Society of North America (1966), the American College of Radiology (1968), the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (1977), as well as the American Medical Association Scientific Achievement Award (1993).
Unique in the field, Dr. del Regato was noted for clinical, technical, scholarly and organizational achievements. In the clinic, his active involvement and interest in developing delivery systems led to the development of the del Regato localizer, the first light localizer to be used. He coauthored with pathologist Lauren Ackerman the book Cancer, the leading oncology text of the time.
Dr. del Regato’s greatest and most long-lasting contribution to the field was his ongoing dedication to training young radiation oncologists. He was the first to establish a training program in radiation oncology and trained a first generation of radiation oncologists who became leaders in the field including, J. Frank Wilson, Jim Cox, Larry Kun and many others. The fondness that these radiation oncologists had for their “Chief” has been reflected in their support for the activities of the del Regato Fund to further education and academic achievement of the field. Dr. del Regato will always be remembered as a pioneer in radiation oncology, an active and vital contributor to the field.
Youngster with a Goal
Interview with Juan A. del Regato
NY Times Obituary