In this first issue of 2024, Dr. Nikolaos Chantziantoniou (from ON, Canada) kindly agreed to share with us something extraordinary that should be of great interest to our readership. This enlightening and thoughtful document, written in a warmly personal narrative style, describes the most recent efforts made by Dr. Chantziantoniou and his colleagues to commemorate the monumental work and cherish the legacy of the founder of our discipline, Dr. George N. Papanicolaou. This meeting report is entitled: The Kymi Odyssey Honorary Ceremony and the future G.N. Papanicolaou Museum – A personal appeal for support, enrichment, and visitation , which is self-explanatory of its content.
Having had an opportunity to follow-up (albeit at distance) the events that led to the culmination on Friday, September 15, 2023, at the birthplace of Dr. Papanicolaou on the isle of Kymi (Greece), the editor felt privileged to draft a short editorial to stress the importance of “the Kymi Odyssey,” in which Dr. Nikolaos Chantziantoniou (N.C.) and Dr. R. Marshall Austin (R.M.A.) (Pittsburg, USA) have been the masterminds and prime advocates since 2015 . The meeting report itself gives a detailed account of the key events during those past 8 years, and there is no need to reiterate those in detail.
Like all odysseys used to be, also this one has not been short. The starting point was a casual meeting between N.C. and R.M.A. in 2015, when R.M.A. introduced to N.C. the various artifacts related to Dr G.N. Papanicolaou, which were on his possession. This soon led to a joint idea that the right place for these items should be in Kymi, Papanicolaou’s birthplace. This prompted N.C. and his wife Stavroula to make a trip (“a pilgrimage” as they call it) to Kymi island in September 2017. During that visit, an idea was crystallized to create the Papanicolaou homestead as a dedicated museum to exhibit not only the life, work, and legacy of Dr. Papanicolaou but also the elements of the whole discipline that he created; diagnostic cytopathology. This idea of converting the Papanicolaou homestead into the G.N. Papanicolaou Museum, including extensive collection of the artifacts from around the world, was well received among the authorities of the town Kymi .
An important part of this final plan included an organization of an international symposium entitled: The Kymi Odyssey Honorary Symposium . By 2019, a good number of eminent international and domestic speakers from Greece agreed to participate, which prompted N.C. and R.M.A. to complete all the arrangements for the symposium, with a strong support by the local authorities in Kymi. Then, something unexpected arrived – COVID-19 pandemic – that prevented the plans to be fulfilled in 2020. Optimistically, the symposium was rescheduled for May 12–14, 2021, but the announcement (e.g., in Acta) had to be withdrawn once again, with no new dates fixed at that stage. Highly unfortunately, even the latest attempt to organize The Kymi Odyssey Honorary Symposium in September 2023 was also disrupted, not directly due to COVID-19 but because of insufficient number of registrations received by the deadline. Perhaps, the pandemic was still in too good memory, and as a result, people have not yet returned to their normal modes of travelling into congresses. Thus, the original idea of an honorary symposium had to be converted to an honorary ceremony, which is the subject of the meeting report , with several friendly photos of the participants.
While considering the importance of “the Kymi Odyssey,” we need to consider (i) the importance of the work and legacy of Dr. G. Papanicolaou and (ii) the importance of treasuring this legacy by the town of Kymi, his birthplace. As to the work and legacy of Dr. G.N. Papanicolaou, it is well known to most of the readers, but perhaps less well known is the important role of his wife, Andromache, who was closely involved in most of the inventions that he made during his career in the USA [2, 3]. In fact, Dr. G.N. Papanicolaou and his wife formed a team selflessly dedicating their lives for the betterment of science and humanity . Dr. Papanicolaou was born in Kymi in 1883 but his professional career took him to Cornell Medical College, New York, in 1914, to be continued for the next 44 years [2, 3], and the impact of his work continues to impress globally even today.
Starting in 1920, he investigated his newly invented scientific method with his wife; her samples of epithelial cells formed the basis for an emerging new discipline. In 1925, Dr. Papanicolaou encountered cervical cancer cells in unhealthy women and these foundations led to the development of the Pap test for the prevention of cervical cancer [2, 3]. The American Cancer Society endorsed the Pap test in 1948 and launched it into screening service by 1957. Subsequently expanded worldwide, Pap test has resulted in nearly 80% reduction in the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in countries where population-based screening programs have been fully implemented using the Pap test.
The Kymi Odyssey Honorary Symposium was originally intended to mark these historical milestones over 60 years after the death of Dr. Papanicolaou in 1962, and it was planned to be ambitious enough to leave behind a legacy of its own . Even if all the goals of the Symposium were not achievable by the Honorary Ceremony, it still provided an opportunity to celebrate the meaning of Dr. Papanicolaou’s life and career and, more widely, its global impact in modern clinical cytopathology as well .
Also the importance of “the Kymi Odyssey” for the town of Kymi itself seems to have been fully comprehended, as evidenced by the meticulous commitments by the Office of the Mayor of Kymi and Aliveri, all being well documented in the meeting report . The report also lists the immediate future plans, of which “the Grand Opening Ceremony” of the future Papanicolaou Museum is tentatively scheduled to take place already in mid-August 2024 . According to the organizers, this opening ceremony promises to be a spectacular event. In addition, a formal symposium is also under consideration by the Papanicolaou Institute in Kymi to coincide with this opening ceremony of the new museum. The organizers hope and are convinced that the majority of the invited speakers, who agreed to contribute to the originally scheduled Honorary Symposium (2020/2021/2023), still revive their interest in this memorable future event.
The second mid-term goal emerging from the honorary ceremony considers the implementation of cytopathology services in the G.N. Papanicolaou General Hospital in Kymi. Another demand is to receive additional pertinent artifacts to expand the collection of the exhibition items in the future museum. The international cytopathology community could play an important role in supporting both these endeavors. Dr. Chantziantoniou concludes his meeting report  by stating that: “If nothing else, the Honorary Ceremony conducted on September 15, 2023, showcased a true inheritance for humanity and Kymi, and staged the ultimate memorial for Dr. G.N. and Andromache Papanicolaou that they so much deserved.”
This statement is easy to agree. I am sure that most of the Acta readers share the view of the editor who wants to express sincere congratulations to Dr. Chantziantoniou and his team for all their efforts made so far and for their continuous commitment in this Kymi Odyssey. We are looking forward to an unforgettable ceremony in 2024 when the new Papanicolaou Museum will be inaugurated in his homestead in Kymi. Cytologists all around the world could use this opportunity and assemble in Kymi to visit the new museum and finally, after so many unsuccessful attempts, participate in the Honorary Symposium to commemorate the legacy of Dr. G. Papanicolaou.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The author has no conflict of interest to declare.
No funding was received for completion of this manuscript.