It is with deep sadness that I announce the passing of Dr. John L Young Jr. yesterday March 11, 2021.
John is considered to be the "father" of cancer surveillance in North America and instrumental to establishing and advancing the principles of this field worldwide. While serving in the Public Health Service, he was employed at the National Cancer Institute 50 years ago during the establishment of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program. Working with Charles Smart, William Haenzel, Sidney Cutler, and Constance Percy, among others, John defined the rules and standard operating procedures for the SEER Program, and ultimately the nation and the world. He also worked closely with Calum Muir and Max Parkin at the International Association of Cancer Registries, serving as President, as an editor of Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, and as an advisor to population based registries worldwide. Through this work, the first standardized and aggregated cancer incidence data were published on a national and international scale, leading to the foundation of descriptive cancer epidemiology and the study of regional variation in cancer incidence. He led the SEER Program until retiring from the Public Health Service in 1988 when he moved to California to lead the establishment of the Greater California Cancer Registry with others such as Don Austin and Dee West. During his tenure in California, John played a pivotal role in the establishment of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, and served as its first President. In the 1998 John joined the faculty of Emory University in Atlanta and served as the Director of the Atlanta SEER registry, and as an advisor to the National Program of Cancer Registries at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More important than all of these significant achievements and contributions to the science of cancer surveillance, John served as a mentor and advisor to us all. Without text books or formal training programs in cancer registration and cancer surveillance John shared his knowledge and opinions freely guiding thousands of cancer surveillance professionals both in the US and worldwide. His tag line about data quality, "Purification Through Use", still resonates with us today. John was cancer surveillance's equivalent of Dr. Fauci.
Finally, John will be remembered as a man with an enormous heart, generous spirit and witty sense of humor. John dearly loved his family, friends and colleagues and found many ways to enrich our lives both professionally and privately. He will be sorely missed and long remembered as friend, a mentor, and for his positive influence on us all.
NAACCR is planning to commemorate John's life and contributions to the field in the near future by hosting an event in which all members may participate. Details will follow shortly.
Betsy A Kohler