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South African-born Dr. Benjamin Sischy dies at age 82

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October 4, 2000 


ROCHESTER, New York (AP) - Dr. Benjamin Sischy, a pioneer in radiation treatment who fled apartheid-era South Africa with his young family in 1961, is dead following a long illness. He was 82.

Dr. Sischy arrived in Rochester in 1967 after additional training in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was chief of radiation oncology at Highland Hospital in Rochester from 1967 to 1988 and retired in 1990.

He was the author of 45 peer-reviewed articles on radiation treatment for cancer and is credited with introducing endocavitary radiation to North America. The procedure, used for early-stage rectal cancer, delivers precise hits of radiation to tumors through a narrow tube.

Dr. Sischy died Sept. 23 at his home in Sarasota, Florida.

Claire Sischy, his wife of 56 years, said that when word of her husband's death reached Johannesburg, South Africa, "The whole town was in mourning."

Patients who had not seen Dr. Sischy since his days in Johannesburg more than 30 years ago would still call him for advice, she said.

The University of Rochester recognized Dr. Sischy's exceptional compassion in 1990 with an endowed fund, the Ben Sischy M.D. Visiting Scholar in Humane Medicine.

Dr. Sischy was born in Germiston, near Johannesburg, on June 8, 1918. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Witwatersrand, he practiced family medicine and specialized in obstetrics.

In 1961, a year after the Sharpeville massacre in which 69 blacks were shot dead by police for peacefully protesting apartheid laws, the chief of police in Johannesburg, whose wife was a patient, called Dr. Sischy, warning him that his wife's arrest was imminent.

Claire Sischy was a member of the Black Sash, a group of white women mounting peaceful opposition to apartheid.

In Edinburgh, a mecca of graduate medical education, Dr. Sischy retrained in radiology, after 20 years of practicing family medicine.

During his retirement, despite failing health, Dr. Sischy threw himself into community causes, including a program in which retirees mentored criminals on parole.

Besides his wife and son David, Dr. Sischy is survived by another son, Mark Sischy of Edinburgh; a daughter, Ingrid Sischy of New York City; a sister, Clarice Sischy of London; and three grandchildren.

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