Prof. Claudio Bassi (1952-2023)
On behalf of the Council of the European-African Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (E-AHPBA), we pay tribute to our 2013-2015 President Prof. Claudio Bassi who passed away on July 11. Our thoughts are with his wife Teresa, his daughter and sons Michela, Daniele and Andrea, his family, friends, and his colleagues of the Pancreas Institute in Verona, Italy.
It took some time to realize and accept that Claudio “Bifo” Bassi is not with us anymore, and it takes a deep breath with eyes closed to understand what he represented for everyone he knew. Claudio was, other than a unique academic surgeon, an eclectic and versatile human being, able to shape with his personal attitudes his professional and personal relationships. It was not possible to meet Claudio, even for a short professional circumstance, without getting in touch with his soul and his generosity. His door was always open.
Claudio was a true giant of pancreas surgery. It is nearly impossible to express all what Claudio has done for pancreas surgery and how many lives he has positively touched upon during his career. Many, if not all, of us in the E-AHPBA community will have warm memories of Claudio. It was impossible not to love the man. Always in good spirits but also wise, experienced, and at the same time provocative and innovative. For decades, Claudio has inspired students, residents, fellows and surgeons from Verona, Italy, Europe, and the world to reach excellence and continue to improve our knowledge trough clinical, innovative research. His residents travelled the world and set up collaborative projects with other pancreatic centers. But not only was he a great scholar and surgeon, he also continuously and graciously demonstrated the love for his Team of the Pancreas Institute in Verona, his music, and above all his family. And he was not afraid to show it! At numerous occasions we have seen Claudio get up on stage, grab a guitar, and play the ‘Grade C Fistula Blues’, among others (for those of you on Twitter, see @ISGPS_news for Claudio’s performance in November 2022; or join us in listening to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDKXLHSCNlo for the exquisite Italian version ‘Ballata del pancreas in blues’.)
The list of professional accomplishments of Claudio Bassi is seemingly never-ending. According to Web of Science he was involved in over 670 publications resulting in an H-factor of 94 and over 57,000 citations. He participated and coordinated more than 20 randomized controlled trials in the field of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis, several of which published in the last 5 years. He was one of four ‘founding fathers’ of the International Study Group for Pancreatic Surgery (ISGPS) which has blessed us with uniform definitions for the complications of pancreatic surgery. This endeavor started in 2005 when Claudio authored the first international definition for postoperative pancreatic fistula. This has become one of the most cited papers ever in the field of pancreatic surgery (5000+ cites). His 2016 ISGPS update of this definition has set the new standard. Essentially, every study published nowadays on pancreatic surgery uses the ISGPS definitions. These definitions have transformed our field and have given pancreatic surgeons the tools to perform high quality, uniform national and international studies. It was only very recently on February 24-26 2023, that Claudio, together with John Neoptolemos, Markus Büchler, and Christoph Dervenis (the ‘ISGPS founding fathers’) handed over the ISGPS leadership to 8 ‘apostles’ as they were labelled. Claudio’s lecture at this event summarized his spirit of collaboration excellently. We would like to invite you to watch his lecture with us to see Claudio explain the fistula story, a story about friendship and collaboration: https://www.stiftung-chirurgie.de/mediathek/isgps.html
In the 10 days since his passing, our entire E-AHPBA and international community of HPB surgeons has come together and connected with each other; either ‘live’ in countless surgical departments and operating rooms across Europe and the world, via mobile applications, and online in social media to share the awful news of Claudio’s passing. The responses from many E-AHPBA and IHPBA members on social media were especially heartwarming and we would like to share some words of these with you as they accurately capture the essence of Claudio: “inspiring leader”, “visionary”, “great heritage”, “wonderful person”, “one of the most important figures in pancreas surgery”, “a fantastic person”, “huge influence in the field”, “he taught .. passion for the pancreas”, “pancreas legend”, “pillar in pancreatic surgery” (each from individual responses to Tweet by @PancreasVerona on July 11, 2023).
His official farewell has been exactly like he was, a celebration of joy and love surrounded by his music and by people who had the luck to meet him and his wonderful family. In a time when who talks louder, pretends to lead, he was remembered as a pacifier and the consistency of his thoughts and actions is and will be an example to follow from medical students to surgical leaders. We were all astonished by the feelings of strength and kindness he has been able to combine and, again, this is distinctive of a true leader. Claudio leaves a challenging legacy, and we feel in charge to stay on his track to protect his style of working, thinking and, moreover, being. To say it with a song theme… he did it his way!
Dear E-AHBPA members, we mourn the loss of a true leader in the field of pancreas surgery. Let us all continue his legacy of collaboration and his passion for our patients, teaching and research. In doing so we will do achieve what Claudio wanted most: the best possible care for our patients obtained through Teamwork!
On behalf of the E-AHPBA Council
Marc Besselink, President
Isabella Frigerio, Secretary General