James Helsper was born in Minneapolis in 1924 and had his college education at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He attended medical school at Jefferson, followed by an internship in Jersey City in internal medicine. After three years in the Navy, he completed a surgical residency at Queens General Hospital in New York and then had further training at Memorial Hospital, including a special fellowship in head and neck surgery.
James practiced with Dr. G.S. Sharp in California and became an important oncologist in the Pasadena area, holding a number of important posts in cancer related organizations. He made significant contributions to the medical literature, writing on such items as the spontaneous return of facial nerve function after surgical sacrifice of the seventh cranial nerve.
His interests were wide, including studies of the in vivo staining properties of oral cancer, and uses of the laser in melanoma. James published a carefully researched historical paper on Dr. Hayes Martin, founder of the AHNS. His total number of medical publications is close to fifty.
In addition to his medical interests, an early involvement with sailing was followed by a long interest in aviation, and he is licensed to fly both single engine and multiple engine aircrafts.
James’s numerous contributions to oncology in the Pasadena area led to his being chosen as Man of the Year by the local branch of the American Cancer Society. His overall importance in head and neck oncology at the national level led to his election as president of the SHNS in 1988. Tucked quietly into his resume is the fact that he is member of the Adventurer’s Club.
During his presidency of the SHNS, he helped organize arrangements for the first participation by the society in the International Cancer Congress. The Congress was held in Hamburg, Germany in 1990, where a panel on thyroid cancer was presented by members of the society.