A distinguished leader in surgery, medicine, and academia, Dr. Forde, who served as chief of colorectal surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, applied a strong but gentle approach to enacting change during his career. Even before Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) became a recognizable term in the workplace, Dr. Forde understood from his own experience with discrimination—that diversity matters.
“In this campaign Dr. Forde was at first a foot soldier, and later a general,” says Dr. Amory. “In his early career he was the advance scout who surveyed the territory identifying obstacles and neutralizing threats. His tools in this effort were his intellect, his excellence, and his interpersonal skills. He made it possible for others like me to be welcomed. He cleared a path and subsequently strategized to recruit and retain us.”
Among the organizations that honor Dr. Forde’s service is the Kenneth A. Forde Diversity Alliance (KAFDA). Established in 2014, the group brings together underrepresented medical students, resident physicians, fellows, graduate students, faculty, research scientists, and allies across the medical center. KAFDA aims to empower the community through networking opportunities, diversity awareness, mentoring relationships, community service and leadership development opportunities.
“He was a ‘gentle giant’ who always took the high road when faced with adversity,” says Trisha Hargaden, a longtime administrative coordinator in Columbia’s Department of Surgery who assisted Dr. Forde from 1997 until his retirement in 2006.
“In the early days, he experienced a new patient walking out of his office when they realized he was the surgeon performing the procedure,” Hargaden adds. “He never became bitter as a result of the many slights he received. He focused on the bigger picture – advocating for colon cancer screening and educating people at the grass roots level as well as people in positions of power that could make a difference.”