Darrell A. Jaques, MD, FACS has lived his life by the motto, "give it what it deserves." This motto has seen him through war, life-and-death situations, and through an illustrious 45-year career as a noted head and neck cancer surgeon. Flash back to the turbulent 1960s and the era of the Vietnam War. Having graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and completed a general surgery residency, Dr. Jaques signed on to serve in Vietnam as Chief Surgeon in an evacuation hospital and then as Commander of a MASH unit.
It was the trauma he saw there, he says, that solidified his decision to treat patients with head and neck cancer. "I quickly realized that people can be wounded in many ways but there is a direct path to correcting it. With cancer, it's not quite that simple," he adds.
Upon his return from Vietnam, Dr. Jaques, who received numerous military awards and commendations, completed his Head and Neck Surgery Fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"During my head and neck fellowship at Walter Reed, I saw how this disease affects people where they live - in the face and brain, through their speech and senses, and I wanted to help," he says. He remained at Walter Reed serving as Chief of Head and Neck Surgery, Assistant Chief of General Surgery, and Consultant to the Surgeon General until his retirement as Colonel in late 1977. It was then that he joined the renowned private practice of Dr. Robert G. Chambers.
Following Dr. Chambers' death in 1981, Dr. Jaques brought two young and upand-coming head and neck surgeons into the practice - Richard M. Hirata, MD, and John R. Saunders, MD - both fellows in head and neck surgery at Walter Reed Hospital during Dr. Jaques' tenure there. This head and neck surgical oncology practice would be the beginning of what is now the Milton J. Dance, Jr., Head and Neck Center at GBMC.
"Darrell always spent an extraordinary amount of time speaking with his patientsand their families to ensure that they understood the complexities of head and neck surgery, and to build relationships with them so they felt comfortable having open discussions about what they were facing," says John Saunders, MD, GBMC Chief of Staff and Director of the Dance Center. "In a sense, he was ahead of his time in addressing the social-emotional issues surrounding the disease."
Ahead of his time he was indeed. In the early 1970s, the use of preoperative radiation therapy for advanced head and neck cancer patients came to the forefront. Dr. Jaques recalls, "Adding this modality had benefits but it also made surgical management of radiation-injured tissues difficult, and increased the risk of carotid artery rupture."
In response to this, Dr. Jaques invented a surgical technique that has since been demonstrated for a variety of acquired disorders. First described in December 1971 in the American Journal of Surgery, the article "Carotid Artery Protection by Means of a Trapezius Muscle Flap" introduced clinical use of the trapezius muscle to construct a flap for coverage of the exposed carotid artery.
On November 6, 2009, Dr. Jaques returned to GBMC for a Grand Rounds presentation of the Presidential Address he gave in May 1984 to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of The Society of Head and Neck Surgeons. "There were a dozen unsettled issues in head and neck cancer management that I posed to my colleagues at that time," he says. "Now we will take a look at each of these issues 25 years later in light of the progress that has been made."
"GBMC's new 11,000-square-foot Head and Neck Center suite is testament to where we have come in the care of patients with head and neck cancer," adds Dr. Jaques. "It's truly a state-of-the-art medical facility and so much more when you see the extent of care and support they provide to patients and their families."
Dr. Jaques spent half of his lifetime specializing in head and neck cancer surgery, a commitment that led to treating patients and molding future leaders in head and neck surgical oncology until his retirement in 1995. Now, at age 80, he says that he is feeling blessed to have more time to spend with his large, loving family - his wife Kathy, their five children, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. As a pioneering head and neck surgeon, a mentor to many, and a family man, Dr. Jaques has never forgotten to give life "what it deserves."
For more information about the comprehensive services available through the Dance Center, call 443-849-2087.