AUA Summit - A Pathologist is Receiving the 2024 William P. Didusch Art & History Award

A Pathologist is Receiving the 2024 William P. Didusch Art & History Award

Jennifer Gordetsky, MD, receiving the AUA Earl Nation Retrospectroscope Award in 2009, when ACMI sponsored the Award for her paper and presentation, "Mysticism and Urology in Ancient Egypt."

Also pictured: then-AUA Historian, Sakti Das, MD, and ACMI representative, Tracey Sanford, RN.

Driving to work early one morning in late November I received a call from my former Department Chair, Ed Messing, who I greatly admire for his work ethic, dedication to trainee education, and patient care. This was one of the best phone calls I have ever received. It went something like this, “Gordo, how are you? I’m calling to let you know you’ve won the William P. Didusch Art & History Award. The Giants are doing just terrible this year. Congratulations. See you in San Antonio.”

I graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2005, determined to be a urologic surgeon, and having matched into a urology residency program. I still remember match day well because the results were issued, and then rescinded (oops, software issue) and then issued again a couple of days later. I had originally matched at the University of Rochester Medical Center and two days later, after much waiting and anticipation, this was confirmed. The education and mentorship I gained during my time in Rochester has been life changing. Here I am, 19 years later, incredibly satisfied in my career as the Medical Director of Anatomic Pathology and Surgical Pathology and Professor of Pathology and Urology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. So, clearly, things didn’t go exactly as I had expected. Developing a passion for pathology during my research year in urology certainly wasn’t how I thought things would go. After completing an internship in general surgery and three years of urology residency, I made the switch to pathology. No reasonable person finishes four years of residency training and thinks, “Hey, that was fun, let’s do that again!”. But I envisioned a career where I could bridge the worlds of urology, pathology, research, and patient care. I would not be where I am now without the support and mentorship of the urology faculty at the University of Rochester, who understood my desire to become an expert in urologic pathology and helped me to achieve my vision for the future. The experiences I gained in urology made me a better pathologist and a better physician.

It was Jeanne O’Brien and Ron Rabinowitz who inspired me early on in my urology residency to become involved with medical history research. We collaborated on many history projects over the years starting in 2008 with “Urology and the Scientific Method in Ancient Egypt”, for which I received the Retrospectroscope Award (1). This was quickly followed by three of my favorite history projects, which I can summarize as “wine is medicine” (2), “don’t put cocaine in your urethra” (3), and “once a Queen was blamed for infertility . . . turns out her husband had a bent penis” (4). Over the years we have continued to collaborate, and now I too am encouraging the next generation of physicians to be involved with medical history (5, 6).

One of the first things I did after graduating from my fellowship in urologic pathology was to become a member of the AUA so that I could be a part of the team that supports the William P. Didusch Center for Urologic History as well as the History Forum and History Exhibit Booth at the AUA Annual Meeting. A letter of support was written for me by Ron Rabinowitz, my mentor both in life and the history of medicine. Participating as a member of the History Committee and helping support the museum has been the most fun part of my career. Medical history is fascinating and a bit of a wild ride. I am grateful to have been able to help share some of that knowledge with others. A huge thank you to AUA Archivist Tupper Stevens for allowing me to host the game “Lies, Damn Lies, and Medical History” at the AUA History Booth since 2019 to help spread some of the fun behind medical history as well.

Recently, a medical student asked “Who are we to judge” when looking back at some of the atrocities committed in the name of medicine (7). The student argued it was a different time with different standards, different ethics. I believe that the most important part of medical history is to ensure that we do not forget our mistakes. If we do not look back, if we do not change, we are destined to repeat the past. As physicians, we have in our hands the ability to do great and terrible things. If we are to be healers of the sick, then we must judge the past, learn from our mistakes, and continue to push ourselves to a higher standard. I am exceedingly grateful to the Awards Committee and the AUA Board of Directors for this most wonderful recognition.


  1. Gordetsky J, and O'Brien J. Urology and the Scientific Method in Ancient Egypt Urology. 2009; 73(3): 476-9.
  2. Gordetsky J, Rabinowitz R, and O'Brien J. The “Infertility” of Catherine de Medici and its Influence on 16th Century France. Can J Urol. 2009; 16(2): 4584-4588.
  3. Gordetsky J, Westesson K, Rabinowitz R, and O’Brien J. Wine and the Treatment of Genito-Urinary Disease: From Antiquity to Modern Times. Can J Urol. 2010; 17(1): 4584-4588.
  4. Gordetsky J, Bendana E, O'Brien J, and Rabinowitz R. (Almost) painless surgery: a historical review of the evolution of intraurethral anesthesia in urology. Urology. 2011; 77(1): 12-6.
  5. Gordetsky JB, Rais-Bahrami S, Rabinowitz R. Annie, Annie! Are You Okay?: Faces Behind the Resusci Anne Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Simulator. Anesth Analg. 2020 Aug;131(2):657-659
  6. A Critical Picture of Racism, Trophy Taking, and Forensics: Life Magazine May 22, 1944 “Picture of the Week”. Benjamin L. Coiner, Ronald Rabinowitz, Meghan E. Kapp, Jennifer B. Gordetsky. IJUH. July 1, 2022. DOI: 10.53101/IJUH.2.1.752203
  7. Sakti Das, Rainer Engel, Heiner Fangerau, Jennifer Gordetsky, Matthis Krischel, Laura Kueny, Franz Marx, Friedrich Moll, Michael Moran, Ron Rabinowitz, Erwin Rugendorff, Sara Spettel, Peter Tiffany. Skeletons in the Closet: Indignities and Injustices in Medicine. American Urological Association, 2012. ISBN 0615611729, 9780615611723