This obituary of one of the visionary pioneers of obesity surgery appeared in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases
, the official journal of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, January/February 2007.
Doctor Lubomyr Kuzmak died of pneumonia on October 12, 2006 at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey. Dr. Kuzmak had been ill and disabled from a back injury and complications that followed a career-ending accident that occurred on February 24, 1996. His funeral service was held at Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church on October 21, 2006. Burial in the family plot followed at Saint Andrew’s Cemetery in South Bound Brook, New Jersey.
Lubomyr Kuzmak was born August 2, 1929 in a part of the Ukraine that today is known as Baligrod, Poland. His father was a locally respected physician and his maternal and paternal grandfathers were priests, who instilled in him by their teaching and example a set of high values that emphasised respect and concern for his fellow man. Lubomyr Kuzmak stayed true to this heritage in spite of having to grow up in the totalitarian environment of oppressive Hitlerism and Stalinism. As a young man he was an avid participant in competitive sports, including skiing, swimming, and motorcycle racing. Always an excellent student, he graduated from the Medical School of Lodz, Poland in 1953. He then continued his post graduate studies in surgery for 7 years at the Bytom campus of Silesian University. He joined the faculty of the Silesian University in 1961, and he advanced to the rank of Associate Professor. He was awarded a Doctor of Science degree in 1965.
In June 1965, Lubomyr Kuzmak was invited by one of his patients to meet her niece, who was in the Soviet Union at the time serving as an interpreter for the U.S. Informational Agency at a visiting technological exhibit. The meeting of Roxana Smishkewych and Lubomyr Kuzmak was truly love at first sight. This romance led to the challenging adventure of starting a new life in a new country.
Lubomyr Kuzmak emigrated to the U.S. in October 1965. He embraced his new found freedom and became a proud and patriotic American citizen. Roxana and Lubomyr were married January 22, 1966. Lubomyr passed the ECMFG shortly thereafter. He served 4 years as a surgical resident at Saint Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, New Jersey. He completed his chief resident year in 1971. He then opened an office in Newark, New Jersey, and later a second office in Livingston, New Jersey, for the private practice of general and vascular surgery.
In the early 1980's Lubomyr Kuzmak was driven by a sense of purpose and passion to develop a better and safer gastric restriction procedure for the surgical treatment of severe obesity. He became a visionary pioneer who applied his inventive talent to design and patent an adjustable gastric band and a method to place the band by laparoscopic technique. He did initial investigational studies of his device and method. While the Food and Drug Administration demanded expanded studies in the U.S., Dr. Kuzmak taught bariatric surgeons at International Workshops at the University of Padua, under the sponsorship of Professor Mario Lise, Franco Favretti, Gianni Segato, and later Guy-Bernard Cadiere, and at the University of Liege, under the sponsorship of Mitiku Belachew and Claude DeSaive, soon advanced the implantation of the adjustable silicone gastric band by minimally invasive techniques. Professor Paul O’Brien of Monash University was an early participant in these workshops. He became a leader in the laparoscopic placement and teaching of this procedure in Australia.
Dr. Lubomyr Kuzmak kept his commitment to bariatric surgery until ill health depleted his energy. His contributions will hold a significant place in the history of bariatric surgery of the twentieth century. His friends and colleagues will remember his warm personality and gentlemanly demeanor.
He was an active member of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. He was a frequent contributor and participant in the Annual Clinical Meeting sessions and scientific exhibits.
Lubomyr Kuzmak was a prominent member of the Ukrainian community in North America. He was recognised with Distinguished Honor for his “humanitarianism services to the Ukrainian community” by Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine.
He is survived by his wife, Roxana, his daughter Roxolana, his grandaughter, Ariana Lubmyra Zajac, his son-in-law, Adrian Zajac, and his sister, Alexandra Konstantynowicz.
Cornelius Doherty, M.D., F.A.C.S
Emeritus, Department of Surgery
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Iowa City, Iowa
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