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Dr. Raymond Yesner (1914-2012)

Dr. Raymond Yesner

Dr. Raymond Yesner worked at Yale for more than 50 years. In 1984, he became Professor Emeritus, and later endowed a chair, the Raymond Yesner Professor of Pathology. The President and Fellows of Yale University voted to name Jon S. Morrow, MD, PhD, Professor and current Chair of Pathology, as the first recipient.

Dr. Yesner was born in 1914, in Columbus, Georgia. He was the second son of Anna Talbot and Benjamin Nabrisky Yesner. His education began in a one-room schoolhouse in Wellington, Maine, and he attended PS-19 in New York City before attending high school at Boston Latin.

At 16, Dr. Yesner graduated with an academic scholarship to Harvard College, entering as a writing major but quickly changed to chemistry. He worked at the State Sanitarium in Worchester, Massachusetts, as a chemist after graduation. He then enrolled in Tufts Medical School, and completed his pathology internship and residency at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He enlisted during WWII, served two years as a Navy Lieutenant Commander aboard the Nantucket, then three years in mobile surgical hospitals as an Army Lieutenant First Class and Captain. In 1947, Dr. Yesner returned to Boston, married Bernice Lieberman, applied for a medical license to practice in Connecticut, and joined the Veterans Administration Hospital staff in Newington, where he lived in a Quonset hut with his young family.

Dr. Yesner came to the Yale School of Medicine as Associate Professor of Pathology in 1949, transferred to the VA Hospital in West Haven as Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Services in 1953, and settled into the passive solar house he built in Woodbridge, where he lived for 60 years. Ray served as Associate Dean of the Yale School of Medicine from 1968 to 1974. He started a training program with Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Connecticut, for pathologist assistants at the VA Hospital in 1971, received tenure at Yale in 1972, and became Chief of Staff and Director of Anatomical Pathology at the VA Hospital in West Haven in 1974.

Dr. Yesner bridged the resources of the Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital to study the clinical aspects of thoracic diseases, especially tuberculosis, lung cancer, and prostate cancer. His observations of more than 10,000 lung cancer patient histories led to a descriptive system of carcinogenic classification that became an international standard through his role with the World Health Organization (WHO) as 1981 Chair of the Expert Committee on Lung Cancer, and as author and editor of the WHO International Classification of Lung Tumors, published in 1987, and the Atlas of Lung Cancer, published in 1997.

In 1994, Dr. Yesner retired from the VA and devoted his time to teaching at Yale. In 1998, he endowed the Raymond Yesner Chair of Pathology, ceded it to his protege, Dr. Jon Morrow, and became Professor Emeritus. In 2004, he received the Pulmonary Pathology Society Lifetime Achievement Award for his many contributions to the field. In 2007, the American and Canadian Academy of Pathology honored his contributions to education and research with the International Academy of Pathology Gold Medal.

He passed away in Woodbridge, Connecticut, in 2012 at the age of 98.