In 1987, he undertook the challenge of becoming the first Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, and in a relatively short period of time that Center emerged as a “premier” cancer research institute." He became Director Emeritus in 2003. For almost 30 years, (1966-1995) he served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of Harvard’s Departments of Medicine and played a pivotal role in the departments’ growth and quest for excellence. Dr. Isselbacher has trained over 140 clinical and research fellows both in gastroenterology and oncology and many of them have become leaders in their respective fields nationally and internationally. His publications include close to 400 journal articles and book chapters.
He has served on the editorial boards of Journal of Clinical Investigation (1962-1972) and Gastorenterology (1963-1968) and was also consulting editor of Medicine (1962-1994). His leadership in medicine is also recognized nationally and internationally by virtue of his role as an editor of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. This book is viewed by many as the leading text in internal medicine. It is used world-wide and has been translated into 18 languages. Dr. Isselbacher has been a member and officer in many professional associations, including the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Research Council, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. He served as President of American Gastroenterological Association, the American Association for Study of Liver Diseases, and the Association of American Physicians. He has also served as a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Isselbacher has received many awards and honors including the Distinguished Achievement Award and the Friedenwald Medal of the American Gastroenterological Association, the John Phillips Memorial Award for Distinguished Achievement in Clinical Medicine,and from Squibb/Mead Johnson the Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research. In 2001, he received the Kober Medal of the Association of American Physicians, which is the highest recognition that this Association can bestow on one of its members and also an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Northwestern University.
In 1988, Massachusetts General Hospital decided to create its own cancer center and Dr. Isselbacher became its first director. At this time Ms. Isselbacher resigned from DFCI to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.