Sami Arap was born in Sao Paulo, the son of a Syrian immigrant from Antioquia, who made his living as a tailor.
Although not wealthy, his father was able to pay Sami’s secondary school at a recognized school in the city, and at nineteen he entered the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sao Paulo.
During his medical studies, he also stood out not only academically, but also in sports, as part of the water polo team. After graduation, he began his medical residency at the Surgical Clinic of the recently inaugurated teaching hospital of the Faculty of Medicine. After completing the period of surgical residency, Sami enrolled in the staff of the Surgical Clinic, shortly after he traveled to Paris, where he performed an internship at the Clinic of Urology of the Necker Hospital, under the direction of Professor Roger Couvelaire, from 1962 to 1963. There, his initial interest was renal vascular surgery, kidney transplantation and treatment of bladder tumors, but he also began to follow the activities of the Pediatric Urology group, led by Dr. Jacob Cukier. This was a revealing period for him, since he was interested in the subspecialty in the development of pediatric urology. After this period in Paris, he decided to expand his knowledge in this field and took the opportunity to spend some time at Dr. Willi Gregoir’s clinic in Brussels, where he participated in studies related to vesicoureteral reflux and antireflux procedures, as well as Reconstructive genital procedures.
Upon his return to the University Hospital of Sao Paulo in 1963, Sami requested his transfer from the Surgical Room to the Urological Clinic of the University Hospital. The head of the Urological Clinic, Professor Campos Freire, the one convinced by Sami, as well as Dr. Alfredo Cabral, another surgeon turned urologist with experience in pediatric procedures acquired abroad, who asked for pediatric surgery was a promising field for the then Urological Clinic expansion. Then, Campos Freire established the first pediatric urology unit in Brazil, which began to carry out activities under the direction of Alfredo Cabral. Being younger and academically more active than Cabral, Sami had a great reputation, disseminating the emerging concepts of pediatric urology to urologists and pediatricians, not only in Brazil, but also in South America. In 1972, Cabral left the Urological Clinic and Sami in the head of the unit. His interest at the time also focused on bladder exstrophy, a field that was completely virgin at that time. He began an initial work with these unfortunate children, proposing an innovative three-step treatment, followed by reconfiguration of the bladder and closure of the abdominal defect with inguinal flaps, and complete with anastomosis of the bladder to the sigmoid path associated with the closure of the cutaneous stoma) , which had a great scientific impact. His research activity also led to a doctoral thesis (“Surgical treatment of primary vesicoureteral reflux by the Gregoir technique”) in 1971 and a professional thesis (“Surgical treatment of urinary incontinence associated with Epispadia by the techniques of Leadbetter and Tanagho “”) in 1976.
At this time, he also met a young anesthesiologist at the university hospital, fell in love and soon married her. Astrid became his life partner.
The development of the Pediatric Urology Unit generated considerable scientific production in the areas of bladder exstrophy, epispadias, hypospadias, vesicoureteral reflux and renovascular hypertension, and Sami began receiving invitations from many urological centers around the world for presentation. He also became a member of many urological societies, and his friendly and enthusiastic personality helped him to establish contact with many leaders in pediatric urology. His scientific leadership was recognized in the Congress of the American Confederation of Urology (CAU), held in Santiago de Chile in 1974, during which he was founded in the Latin American Society of Pediatric Urology (SLAUI), affiliated with the CAU. Sami was elected by acclamation as his new president, serving two terms. In 1995, this company also incorporated pediatric surgeons from Latin America and Spain, and changed its name, becoming the Ibero-American Society of Pediatric Urology (SIUP).
In 1986, after a public contest, Sami became Full Professor and Head of the Urology Clinic at the University Hospital, assuming responsibility for all urological activities, including pediatric urology and kidney transplantation. His administration was characterized by the modernization of the service both functionally and academically. In 1987, a postgraduate program in urology was initiated, which represents a remarkable improvement in the training of researchers and professors in all fields of urology. However, even after being involved with adult urology and transplantation, his passion remained in pediatric urology, where new concepts were introduced in the treatment of hypospadias, neurogenic bladder and kidney transplantation in children. He especially emphasized the importance of endourology and laparoscopy, becoming the pediatric urology unit in a pioneer in these techniques. More than 200 scientific articles were published by the Urological Clinic during its administration.
As a teacher, Sami also rose to the important role in international exchange, not only through his trips to urological public services in North America and Europe as a “visiting professor”, but also invited many national and foreign professors to visit the Urological Clinic and to participate in local urological congresses. His generous hospitality always impressed his guests. He stimulated and, through his contacts, helped his friends obtain scholarships in foreign services. It also provided a regular international exchange program to urology residents through an agreement with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, USA. UU UU., Granting each one an internship of the months in that institution as of January 1994.
After his mandatory retirement from the University Hospital in 2004, Sami remained active in his practice, becoming naturally the leader and spokesman for urologists in a private hospital in São Paulo, where he was until his death.
Sami had many qualities, and his success can be attributed to study, perseverance, leadership, friendship, an incredible personality and, of course, a lot of luck. He was blessed with a happy family life, being survived by Astrid, a son who is also a successful urologist, two daughters and eight grandchildren. Most importantly, being a talented and inspiring leader, he was able to form a strong group of urologists, many dedicated to pediatric urology, who will continue with his legacy and will miss him deeply.
Francisco Tibor Dénes
Amilcar M Girón
Division of Urology University of Sao Paulo – Pediatric Urology Unit