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About the Institute

The Andrew Sass-Kortsak Award

Who is the Andrew Sass-Kortsak Award named after?

Dr. Andrew Sass-Kortsak
Dr. Andrew Sass-Kortsak

Dr. Andrew Sass-Kortsak was born in Hungary in 1916 where he obtained his MD and certificate in paediatrics. He completed his postgraduate training at the Department of Physiology in the University of Basel in Switzerland. In 1949 Sass-Kortsak came to The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). He became a Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto in 1966, Director of Genetic-Metabolic diseases in 1974 and Head of the Research Institute in 1981.

Dr. Sass-Kortsak’s research focus was metabolic liver disease, specifically Wilson’s disease. Wilson’s disease is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder in which copper accumulates in tissues; this manifests as neurological or psychiatric symptoms and liver disease. In association with other researchers – including Dr. Bibudhendra (Amu) Sarkar who became interested in Biochemistry as a direct result of Sass-Kortsak's influence – Dr. Sass-Kortsak worked out the chemistry of the metabolism of copper and the genetic aspects of the disease.

Archival photo
Drs. Sass-Kortsak and Sarkar

In 1976, Drs. Sass-Kortsak and Sarkar used copper-histidine as a treatment for Menkes disease, a fatal genetic neurological disorder which prevents the body from absorbing copper from food. Menkes disease appears in several forms and at the time of the new treatment it was impossible to tell how severely the patient was affected. In 1993 the Menkes disease gene was identified, making it possible to test patients for the genetic mutation and determine if they have a mild or severe form of the disease.

Dr. Sass-Kortsak retired from SickKids in October 1981. When asked whether he had any advice for junior staff physicians, he replied, "Be primarily concerned for your patients and do your very best in your job. Do not worry about advancing fast enough or faster. Just do a very good job. Your advancement will be based on that. Leave it for others to advance you!"

Dr. Sass-Kortsak passed away in 1986. The Andrew Sass-Kortsak Award is given annually to a postdoctoral fellow in his honour. The award winner is selected based on contributions to the Research Institute including publications and research projects.

The 2009 Andrew Sass-Kortsak award winner was named this week at SickKids – the 21st recipient of this award is Dr. Jin-Hee Han, Fellow in the Neurosciences & Mental Health Program.