The Early Days
The Hellenic Medical Society of New York (HMS) has its origins in the Greek-American Medical Fraternity, an organization co-founded by the renowned physician George N. Papanicolaou during the First World War. The organization officially registered with the New York State authorities in 1920. Drs. George N. Papanicolaou, Constantinos Carousos and Constantinos Logothetis served consecutively as presidents of this fraternity.
In 1924, the Greek-American Medical Fraternity changed its name to the Greek-American Intercollegiate Club and broadened its scope. This new club was presided by a newcomer to the United States, a surgeon named Dr. Polybios Coryllos. Dr. Constantine Psakis served as secretary of the society. Dr. Coryllos had become well- known while organizing the first mobile surgical units at Verdun and Chateau Thierry in France in 1917. These mobile units were supported by doctors and nurses from the Roosevelt Hospital of New York City. Dr. Coryllos received honorary medals from the French, Romanian and Greek governments. He subsequently became Professor of Surgery at Cornell Medical College of New York, and was Chief of Surgery at the Metropolitan and Seaview Hospital in New York City. Following Dr. Coryllos, Dr. I Regussis and Dr. Themistokles Mavrocardatos served as presidents of the Greek-American Intercollegiate Club. The club continued its activities until 1945 when its president, Dr. Savvas Nittis, changed its name to the Hellenic University Club of New York we are familiar with today.
In 1936, Dr. Coryllos and other members of the Hellenic University Club formed The Hellenic Medical Society of New York (HMS), a professional organization of physicians. The founders included the pediatrician Christos Bozes, the internist Alexander Alexio, the dermatologist Nicholas Pattakos, the gynecologist Avraam Soukouris and the surgeon Constantine Psakis. The specific objectives of the HMS included creating a network of Greek- American Physicians, cultivating fraternal relationships among its members, and promoting public health initiatives in conjunction with other medical societies.
The board envisioned the establishment of a Greek-American medical library and hospital in New York City. However, the sudden death of Dr. Coryllos in 1938 and the Second World War interrupted the project. During the War, Dr. Constantinos Carousos and Dr. Leonidas Lantzounis served as HMS presidents. Dr. Lantzounis was very active in war relief efforts to Greece along with the benefactors Mrs. Reynolds-Kehagias and Mr. Pericles Lantzounis.
After the Second World War, HMS activities were predominantly social. The affairs of the society were conducted by Dr. S. Nittis, Professor of Hematology, Dr. Michael Mulinos, Professor of Pharmacology, Dr. Louis Ferris (Seferlis) in 1960, Dr. Constantine Foustanos in 1965 and Dr. George Haziris in 1967.
Between 1967 and 1971, a full-fledged membership drive was conducted and HMS membership increased from 20 to 160 physicians. Dr. Theophilos Deliyanidis, president from 1969 to 1971, oversaw the drafting of a revised constitution and by-laws, and organized committees with specific responsibilities. Annual social affairs and gala celebrations were introduced during this period to fund the medical education of Greek-American youth.
In 1971, the society obtained tax-exempt status as an educational organization, thus greatly facilitating donations. A program of lectures featured distinguished speakers, including professors from the University of Athens Medical School such as Drs. Malamos, Tountas, Courias and Chryssospathis. During annual social affairs, honorary certificates were awarded to prominent physicians and citizens.
From 1971 - 2000, the society made great strides in unifying the Greek-American physicians in the New York metropolitan area and neighboring states, and in accomplishing its community goals. The following physicians were presidents of the HMS during this period: Dr. Nicholas Arabos (1972), Dr. Marinos Petratos (1975), Dr. Themistocles Chryssochoos (1977) , Dr. Apostolos Tambakis (1979), Dr. George Kokotakis (1981), Dr. Anthony Vasilas (1983), Dr. Antoine Harovas (1985), Dr. Steve Fochios (1990), Dr. Peter Tsairis, (1996) and Dr. George Yatrakis (1997).
Establishment of the Scholarship Fund
In 1975, Dr. Marinos Petratos, HMS President, successfully organized the scholarship fund. Drs. Mulinos, Lantzounis and Bozes were among the first major donors to the fund.
Memorable among the many HMS-sponsored events was the dedication of the bust of Dr. George N. Papanicolaou at Cornell Medical College in 1979, under the guidance of Dr. Konstantine Velis. In 1983, its replica was donated to the University of Athens by the Dr. George N. Papanicolaou Memorial Committee. The societyʼs by-laws were revised in the same year. In 1981, the first issue of the quarterly HMS Newsletter was published, edited by Dr. Anthony Vasilas and Dr. James Gabriel. The newsletter kept HMS members regularly informed of activities and functions.
Membership in the HMS increased steadily . A membership directory, featuring members’ hospital affiliations, specialty and contact information was compiled by Dr. Nicholas H. E. Mezitis, and Dr. Anthony Vasilas in 1990 and remained in use as a referral guide for many years. Starting in 1980, Dr. Vasilas and the late Dr. Flessas supervised the transfer of scientific textbooks and medical equipment to hospitals throughout Greece, Cyprus and Northern Epirus in present day Albania.
HMS by-laws were revised again in 1983 under the supervision of Dr. Peter Tsairis and Dr. Nicholas Romas. As a result, new committees were introduced and others were expanded. As local professional meetings became more frequent, annual national and international outreach programs were established and more scholarships were awarded. The first national outreach program for physicians outside the New York metropolitan area was organized by Dr. Sypros G. E. Mezitis in Philadelphia in 1995.
Greek-American physicians’ from New York first participation in a conference in Greece was the PanHellenic Congress against Tuberculosis at the Athens Academy, in May, 1909 . In 1969, the HMS co-sponsored the Sixth Middle-Eastern Paediatric Congress in Athens. In 1971 the HMS supported the Post-Graduate Seminar of Mental Retardation organized by New York Medical College in conjunction with the Athens University Medical School.
In 1984, The Hellenic Medical Society of New York officially began co-sponsoring conferences in Greece with regional medical societies. These conferences were initially organized by Dr. Demetrios Flessas, who also advised the Greek-American educational organization Krikos in founding new state medical schools in Greece. The medical seminars were continued under the leadership of Dr. Alexander Karfopoulos through 1997, when the 14th Medical Seminar on the island of Rhodes, jointly directed by the Education Committee Chairman, Dr. Nicholas H. E. Mezitis and the International Outreach Committee Chairman, Dr. Marinos Petratos, featured record participation and visits to Athens and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.
The New Millennium
The new millennium introduced a dynamic group of young physicians with excellent academic credentials, who promoted recognition of the HMS nationally and internationally. Dr. Spyros G.E. Mezitis (2000 - 2004) expanded the educational programs with strong support from the pharmaceutical industry as well as philanthropic, and became a founding president of the Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies of North America. During Dr. Spyros Mezitis’ presidency, Dr. Apostolos Tambakis donated his medical office at 60 Plaza Street in Brooklyn to the Society. The annual George Papanicolaou Symposium expanded in association with Panevoikos Society as well as broader OMOGENEIA support, and the Weill-Cornell Medical Students receiving the annual scholarship were presented to the HMS symposium attendees. HMS started participating in the annual March 25th Hellenic parade on 5th Avenue. The HMS website was organized efficiently.
Dr. George D. Dangas (2004 - 2008) expanded relationships with medical societies of the Hellenic Diaspora through the newly formed Global Hellenic Medical /Bioscientific Network and secured scholarship support from the Greek Ministry of Health. This expanded the number of scholarship/award recipients. Then Minister of Health of Greece honored HMS in 2005 by awarding the head of Goddess Hygeia, located in the HMS office ever since. HMS led the Network into holding large annual conferences in Kos (2007), Pafos (2008), and Lagonisi (2009), including many delegates from 23 countries around the world and broad participation from the governments of Cyprus and Greece. Dr. Roy Vagelos received the Inaugural Career Achievement Award in 2009. The annual HMS Gala was held twice at the top of the Rockefeller Center and Past Prime Minister of Greece along with active Ministers of Greece and Cyprus participated regularly. Dr. Dangas also supervised the organized revision of the HMS bylaws (ultimately approved in 2007) and during his tenure the Board voted for the official HMS office to always be called “Tambakeion” (plaque bestowed in 2005). In the 2007, the Alexander Onassis Public Benefit Foundation became the first institution to receive the HMS annual Distinguished Hellene Award. The first HMS book on “George Papanicolaou Career – The Way to the Pap Test” by Maria Papanicolaou-Kokkori was finalized with the longtime help of Dr Anthony Vasilas and distributed.
Dr. George J. Tsioulias (2009 - 2010) completed renovations of the Brooklyn office and inaugurated its use as the headquarters of the Society by moving the Tambakeion Office from Manhattan. He also cultivated relationships with other Hellenic-American professional and community organizations in the NY Metropolitan area and promoted ties to the ‘ΟΜΑΔΑ ΑΙΓΑΙΟΥ’, which brings physician specialists to the remote frontier islands of the Aegean. He became the 1st ever HMS President to be elected as the Grand Marshal of the March 25, 2010 Hellenic parade on 5th Avenue, a great honor for HMS.
In January 2011, under the administration of its new president Dr. Nicholas H.E. Mezitis, the Society entered a period of significant change, as it re-confirmed its mission after 75 years of growth. The era of new forms of communication was embraced with a new, dynamic, interactive website incorporating Facebook and Twitter, and a monthly e-News Bulletin. Videos from all major Society events are permanently posted to the website and to YouTube increasing our Society’s visibility and widening the outreach of its message.
Trademark protection was secured for the Society name (THE HELLENIC MEDICAL SOCIETY OF NEW YORK™) and its logo, originally designed by Dr. Theophilos Deliyanidis. Community outreach was strengthened through radio and television health programs in both Greek and English and by DOCFINDERS ™, a physician referral hotline linked to the Society website, which includes current information on all active members of the Society.
The relationship with Weill-Cornell Medical School and New York Hospital was confirmed through the introduction of annual contributions from the Society to the George N. Papanicolaou Medical Scholarship Fund and through support of the George N. Papanicolaou Cytopathology Laboratory Summer Tutorial program.
The Society now honors past presidents and members deceased at an annual Archdiocesan Divine Liturgy and HMSNY Memorial Service.
Mary Kalopothakes M.D. Distinguished Female Physician - Scientist Award was established by dr. Stella Lymberis to be awarded in April each year.
The PARTNERS IN MEDICAL PRACTICE ™ program was introduced to acknowledge businesses offering benefits to our members and to our Society. Barcoded photo IDs are now available and are issued annually to Society members and PARTNERS in good standing to ensure access to events and benefits.
The Scholarship and Grants program was expanded to support fellowships at major teaching hospitals, scholarships for Greek students at American medical schools, summer school programs in Greece, exchange programs with Greek Universities, and observerships at New York teaching hospitals for physicians visiting from Greece. In 2010 - 2012 the Society sponsored a full two- year Fellowship in Ophthalmology at the Harkness Eye Institute of Columbia University, supported by Foundation donations in honor of Dr. Apostolos Tambakis. This year, the Society formally established its support for the Science Lab, in memory of Mrs. Virginia Tambakis, and a Science Program of Excellence at the St. Demetrios High School in Astoria, Queens.
The Hellenic Medical Society of New York has also been active in providing guidance and support to groups delivering aid to the Greek population suffering in its greatest financial crisis after the Second World War. In May, it entered into a fraternization agreement ‘ΑΔΕΛΦΟΠΟΙΗΣΗ’ with the Athens Medical Association ‘ΙΑΤΡΙΚΟΣ ΣΥΛΛΟΓΟΣ ΑΘΗΝΩΝ ‘representing 25,000 physicians in Greece.
This agreement provides for the professional presence of our Society and its members in Greek medical missions to underserved areas. As another expression of Society commitment to the youth of Greece, 101 laptop computers and computer support services were purchased through the One Laptop Per Child (OPLC) Program and were donated to a secondary school in Kalamata, Greece through contributions from the family of Dr. Apostolos Tambakis.
The Society’s commitments to unity as an organization and within the Greek American community continues under the presidency of Dr. George Liakeas, M.D. Following the Vasilopita Ceremony in January of 2015, the Medical Society along with organizers from the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, the Hellenic American Bankers Association, and the Hellenic Lawyers Association met to discuss ways in which our organizations could work more closely together. These discussions continue and are leading to concrete initiatives.
The Medical Society happily co-sponsored or supported many 2015 events of other organizations including celebrations of Oxi Day and the NYC Greek Film Festival. Participation, and the promotion of the activities and efforts of other organizations was promoted by the society’s Executive Board. Electronic communication, verbal announcements, and physical presence at the annual symposia such as HABA’s 33rd Anniversary Dinner honoring Hollywood film producer Michael Tadross, and HACC’s 67th Annual Dinner Dance honoring philanthropist Andreas C. Dracopoulos, director and co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, were just a basic way of expressing support. We were particularly happy to participate in the annual St. Demetrius High School fundraiser luncheon where Dr. Apostolos Tambakis was recognized for his generous support and contributions to the school and its students.
As in previous years, the society hosted its annual Mary Kalopothakis Symposium at Lennox Hill Hospital. The 2015 honoree was the accomplished Dr. Eleni Tousimis for her efforts in the field of breast cancer. Drs. Stella Lymberis and Eleni Andreopoulou gave riveting lectures of their own.
The success of the Mary Kalopothakis Symposium was matched by the excitement surrounding our annual Papanicolaou Symposium which the society co-hosted with the Weill Cornell Medical Hospital, the Panevoikos Society of America, The Hellenic Federation of Medical Societies of North America, and the Prometheus-Greek Teachers Society. Dr. Katherine Hajjar was honored as was the society’s very esteemed Dr. Ioannis Zervoudakis who received the Weill Cornell Hospital Lifetime Achievement Award.
Along with Dr. Spyros Mezitis, the Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies of North America, the Hellenic Relief Fund, AHEPA, the Mytilenian Society of America, and many of the other Hellenic ethnic organizations, the society has made its presence known and demonstrated unity amongst the omogenia and by participating in events hosted by Archdiocesan Cathedral Philoptochos Society, Philo4Thought, and on the broadcasts of Cosmos FM.
The 2015 Gala was a great success thanks to the tireless efforts of its Chairs, Dr. Theodore Diktaban, Susan McCarthy, and Nicole Contos Liakeas,
2016 began with the Vasilopita Ceremony in January and continued with the Apokries celebration in March, a Taste of Greece Wine & Food Tasting event in September, and culminating with the Oxi Day Symposium in October, the Medical Society co-sponsored many events with other professional Hellenic societies. The mutual support that is cultivated and fostered throughout the year has been recognized as an important way to showcase the services and talents of so many of our members.
Dr. Stella Lymberis hosted the annual Mary Kalopothakis Symposium focusing on Lung Cancer and screening. The honoree was Dr. Anastasia Anagnostopoulos, chair of the Department of Pathology at Saint Francis Hospital, The Heart Center, NY. Dr. Anagnostopoulos’ talk was followed by a most informative and interactive discussion by Dr. Julia Smith, Clinical Director, Cancer Screening Program Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, NYU.
The scientific program of the annual Papanicolaou Symposium featured presentations by the 2106 honoree, Dr. Apostolos Athanasiadis, who was introduced by Symposium Chair, Spyros G. E. Mezitis, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman, and Dr. Stella Lymberis.
Other events in 2016 included the “Pythagorean Self-Awareness Technique for stress management, memory improvement and well-being” which was presented to the community by Dr. Christina Darviri and Dr. Liza Varvogli from the Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. Further, the Association of Greek American Professional Women (AGAPW) and host Gus Lambropoulos of Wells Fargo hosted a panel on the current state of cancer prevention and treatment. The audience was enlightened by panelists including Drs. Karen Burke, Eve Giannakakou, Ioannis Hatzaras, Stella Lymberis, George Tsioulias, and Alice Zervoudakis.
As in previous years, the society continued to lobby for the benefit of the people of Greece and promote the role of the Omogenia. Along with Dr. Spyros Mezeitis and the Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies of North America, a major conference addressing the refugee crisis in Greece was held at which time a proclamation was signed by many Hellenic societies to address the flow of refugees into Greece.