A Tribute to our Teacher and Colleague, Prof. Jacob Sadé

Michal Luntz

Director of the Ear and Hearing Center, A.R.M - Otoloryngology, Assuta MC, Tel Aviv and the Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion -the Israel School of Technology

It is an honor to write this tribute to Jacob Sadé (1925, Berlin-2020, Tel Aviv), a teacher, physician, ear surgeon, scientist, scholar, Chairmen of ENT departments, Israeli Ear Nose and Throat Society president, medical journal editorial board member, initiator and organizer of international societies (Politzer society and the Mediterranean Society of Otology and Audiology),  from whatever  perspective, he stood apart as someone very special.

Jacob Sadé was committed to his patients who continued to seek his medical advice up until his final days, as well as to his research that focused on middle ear cleft under-aeration, a term coined by him as opposed to the narrower term, eustachian tube dysfunction meant to describe this condition.

Jacob Sadé' exceptionally long and illustrious medical career started in 1943, after graduating from the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium in Tel-Aviv. He first studied biology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and continued at the University of GenevaSwitzerland, where he studied medicine, graduating in 1951. He returned to Israel to work at the Sheba Medical Center. However  he soon moved to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard University hospital in Boston to specialize in Otolaryngology, followed by a year of research as a research instructor at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1959 Jacob Sadé  returned to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Israel as senior ENT surgeon and in 1967 he was invited to HaEmek Medical CenterAfula, to establish the first ENT department there.  In 1971, he established the ENT department in Meir Medical CenterKfar Saba, and served as head of the ENT department until 1990. From 1990 onwards he continued working with patients in his busy private practice where he also mentored many young ENT specialists in the field of Otology.

Jacob Sadé was a role model for a Surgeon-Scientist, long before the term was ever coined. Concomitant with his busy clinical appointments he was deeply and actively involved in research. In 1966 he was nominated as a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and in 1967 he joined the Weizmann Institute of Science as a visiting professor and stayed there for four years at the Polymer Department, headed by Prof. Aharon Katzir  researching  in the field of Otology. From 1974–1980 he served as an established scientist at the office of the chief scientist of the Israel Ministry of Health. In 1975 Jacob Sadé was nominated a full professor at the Tel Aviv University, in 1975–1976 as a visiting professor in the ENT department at the University of Iowa, and in 1979 as a visiting professor at Boston University. In 1985 Jacob Sadé was appointed Incumbent of the Felix and Sara Dumont Chair of Hearing Disorders Research at Tel Aviv University. From 1986 to 1990 Jacob Sadé served as President of the Israeli Ear Nose and Throat. In 1998 he became head of the committee for coordinating ear research of the International Federation of Oto-Rhino-Laryngological Societies and in 1990 he established and directed (until 2010) the Ear Research Laboratory in the department of Bioengineering at the Tel Aviv University, where in 1993 he was nominated as professor emeritus. During his career he organized several international conferences, both in Israel and abroad, conferences that professionals still remember today as milestones in the field of Otology.

Jacob Sadé encouraged his students to follow “a line” in their research, as he called it, in order to contribute to our field. In this pursuit, absolute accuracy in presenting the results was paramount, as well as writing our papers in such a way that they stood the test of time so dozens of years later we still think they are suitable for publication. For every word in his hundreds of scientific publications, journal papers, chapters in books, and books, he was personally responsible for the scientific accuracy. He edited and re-edited them reaching an unbelievable number of versions until perfection was achieved. Indeed, his scientific publications are often being cited today, thus fulfilling his hopes. His research line focused on the ‘chronic otitis media syndrome’, and under-aeration of the middle ear cleft, the link between the different chronic otitis media entities. Early in his career he became an expert on middle ear and eustachian tube histology, including the technique of preparing the histologic specimens.  He was ready to view endless number of slides in order to be able to see what middle ear and Eustachian tube histology and histopathology were willing to reveal. Jacob Sadé was the first to describe the mucociliary system of the middle ear. His clinical studies were based on following-up his patients, where he endeavored to understand the natural history and the sequalae of middle ear diseases.  Based on his and others’ early measurements of middle ear gas composition, which showed the gas composition of the middle ear cleft to be similar to that of the mix venous blood, he suspected that the gas composition and consequently the gas pressure in the middle ear cleft is controlled not only by gas flow through the eustachian tube, as was commonly accepted, but also by bilateral diffusion between the middle ear cleft cavities and the blood flowing in their mucosa. The last period of his scientific career was dedicated to in-depth basic research on the partial pressures of the different middle ear gases, the relationship between the mastoid volume and middle ear pressure as well as on the fluctuation in middle ear pressure as expressed by the position of the tympanic membrane. Again, diving deeply into the technology needed in order to perform these measurements, he became an expert on using a mass spectrometer. When nevertheless a general theory regarding the middle ear gas equilibrium could not be established, he tried to look for the solution also in ears of large aquatic mammals, and enjoyed the adventures that faraway overseas research had to offer.

Jacob Sadé was famous among his many friends and colleagues for being extremely interesting and enjoyable company. He was an innovative thinker, a visionary spirit with a great sense of humor, not to mention being a scholar of history, literature, and global politics. And on top of all of that he was able to express all this, not only in Hebrew and English, but also in French and German in his typical sophisticated way. He was also extremely interested in other people knowledge and was a unique and active listener.

In addition to his devotion to his work Jacob Sadé always spent a lot of time with his family, his wife Ruth, his children, Yoav, Ayelet, Nadav and Ron and his grandchildren. He treasured long family dinners, listening to his children and grand-children telling him about their activities, thoughts and plans. 

Jacob Sadé’s life was a life well lived. He will be missed by many, but never will he be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to have known him.