University of Nebraska Medical Center

Donnelly takes U.S. cytology back to Greece

Amber with the Mayor

Ever wonder where the name Pap smear came from?

The cytology field began with George Nicholas Papanicolaou, MD, and his development of screening for cervical cancer, or Pap smear.

One of the first things our diagnostic cytology students learn is about Dr. Papanicolaou’s history and his birthplace in Kymi, Greece. But to our students and faculty, Kymi had been just a location on a map or a common test question until former program director and now Associate Dean for Student Affairs Amber Donnelly, PhD, travelled there last year for an Honorary Symposium for Dr. Papanicolaou.

“Representing our UNMC cytology program at an important meeting honoring the pioneer of cytology and early cancer detection was an excellent opportunity,” said Dr. Donnelly. “Being invited to come to Kymi, Greece to speak about the development of cytology education in the U.S. was the pinnacle of my career.”

Dr. Donnelly said that studying about “Dr. Pap” while she was a cytology student, and then teaching her students about him for more than 20 years, made the experience of walking in his childhood home seem surreal. “It’s because of our innovation, expertise and being on the forefront of cytology education that I was invited to this symposium. Because of this, I’m able to share experiences with our students that not many other cytology program faculty can. I was able to tour the hospital that has been named in his honor and meet the mayor of Kymi, who is creating a museum dedicated to Dr. Papanicolaou. “

Dr. Papanicola’s contributions were so important that before Greece switched to the Euro, his likeness was featured on the Greek 10,000-drachma currency note as well as on various Greek stamps. In 1978, the U.S. Postal Service honored him with a commemorative 13-cent postage stamp.

May 13th is Dr. Papanicolaou’s birthday and is celebrated as National Cytology Day. The practice for cytologists has changed a lot over the years. They went from mainly processing specimens and identifying abnormal cells on Pap smears to playing a more active role on the diagnostic health care team today. The UNMC Diagnostic Cytology program has been recognized as a leader in cytology education, both national and internationally. It is currently led by Maheswari Mukherjee, PhD, and is among the first to transition to the master’s degree utilizing the newly approved standards for all education programs.

Please join us in recognizing the efforts of our cytologists on this special day.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.