By Lawrence M. Roth, MD, Professor Emeritus
IU School of Medicine, Dept. of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Juan Rosai was born in Poppi, a small town near Florence in the region of Tuscany, Italy in 1940 and died July 9, 2020 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. When he was eight years old, his parents immigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina because of the economic problems in Italy following the Second World War. There, his first name was changed from the Italian name Giovani to the Spanish equivalent Juan. At the age of 15, Rosai enrolled at the School of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires. In his third year of medical school, he met Eduardo Lascano who inspired Rosai’s interest in the discipline of Pathology, and Rosai subsequently trained in Anatomic Pathology under the direction of Dr. Lascano at the same institution.
Rosai completed his pathology residency at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri under the mentorship of Professor Lauren V. Ackerman. He remained on the faculty of Washington University until 1974. At the age of 34, Rosai was appointed Professor and Director of Anatomic Pathology at the University of Minnesota. He left there in 1985 for a similar position at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, where he stayed until 1991. From 1991 to 1999, Rosai was the James Ewing Alumni Professor and Chairman of Pathology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Rosai was the author of more than 400 scientific peer-reviewed papers on topics in pathology. Among the most notable was his seminal description of the entity known as sinus histiocytosis with massive lymphadenopathy (Rosai-Dorfman disease) published in in 1969. He served as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Surgical Pathology until 2014.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Rosai permanently moved back to his homeland in Italy as Chairman of the Department of Anatomic Pathology at the Istituto Nazionale in dei Tumori (National Cancer Institute) in Milan, Italy. In 2005, he created the Center for Oncologic Pathology Consultations at the Centro Diagnostico Italiano in Milan, where he continued his consultation and educational activities focusing on oncological surgical pathology.
In 2006, Dr. Rosai was invited to give the 57th Spring Seminar of the Indiana Association of Pathology by Dr. Lawrence M. Roth, the Director of Surgical Pathology at Indiana University School of Medicine at the time and now Professor Emeritus of Pathology at the same institution. In 1949, Dr. Arthur Purdy Stout, renowned soft tissue pathologist from the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City presented the first Indiana Association of Pathologists seminar. The distinguished surgical pathologist Dr. Lauren V. Ackerman from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis also gave a seminar on soft tissue pathology in 1953. Subsequently, many other notable surgical pathologists gave seminars including Elson Helwig, who gave 2 seminars one on Diseases of the Alimentary Tract and the other on Dermal Pathology, David Dahlin, on Tumors of the Skeletal System, and Robert E. Scully on the Pathology of the Ovary, among others. Altogether, the Spring Seminar of the Indiana Association of Pathologists has a storied and long-lasting history.