Our History

Until 1969, anesthesiology was a section in the Department of Surgery. A faculty position in anesthesiology was established in that department in 1928, when Dr. Huberta M. Livingstone came to The University of Chicago together with her husband, Dr. William E. Adams, professor of surgery. Dr. Livingstone remained at the University as director of anesthesia until 1952. During her tenure, she was instrumental in establishing the first recovery room.

In 1933, anesthesiology at the University was recognized as an all-physician section and became the first graduate training department in Illinois approved by the American Medical Association. An active residency training program in anesthesiology has been maintained since then.

Several distinguished anesthesiologists succeeded Dr. Livingstone. From early 1953 until 1958, Dr. Ernst Trier Mörch was the section head; from May 1959, Dr. Ducan A. Holaday headed the section until November 1968. By that time, University of Chicago anesthesiologists had pioneered the development of respirators, involved anesthesiologists in intensive pulmonary care, and established a school of respiratory therapy at the University.

In October 1968, the University invited Dr. Merel H. Harmel to head the section. Dr. Harmel was successful in seeking departmental status for anesthesiology and the new department was formed in April 1969, with Dr. Harmel as chairman. Expansion of space and active recruitment of faculty marked his tenure in the new post. When he left the University in 1971, the department had 18 faculty members.

Drs. Harry Lowe and Thomas MacKrell served as acting chairmen until Dr. Donald W. Benson was appointed in January 1975. Dr. Benson received his B. S. and M.D. degrees from the University. He was a specialist in automated artificial respiration in severe crushing injuries of the chest, in neuropharmacology, in anesthesia problems in heart and plastic surgery.

The department has been continuously productive not only in its scientific contributions, but also in providing outstanding basic medical care in anesthesiology. Its members have helped to establish the role of anesthesiologists as consultants in fields such as intensive care, oxygen therapy, the recovery room, and inhalation therapy.

From a one-member section in 1928, the department has grown to a 60+ member faculty; the department includes 50+ residents, 20+ nurse-anesthetists, 14 administrators and 70+ staff members. Faculty members are active nationally and internationally in the field, and former trainees of the department hold prominent academic positions in the United States and throughout the world.

The University of Chicago is a private, nondenominational institution with a long history of academic excellence. William Rainey Harper, founding president, opened the University's door in 1892, with the goal of creating the premier academic institution in the Midwest. The liberal arts college was dedicated to a classical style of learning, one which placed strong emphasis on the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and on encouraging students to think and learn for themselves. Some of the academic innovations originated along the way during the University's evolution include the four-quarter system, the core curriculum of general education for undergraduates (which has been adopted in recent years by many major universities nationwide), and a full-time medical school teaching faculty.

Attesting to the University's success in achieving prominence, 65 individuals affiliated with The University of Chicago as teachers, researchers or students have been honored with Nobel prizes. These include such well-known names as Milton Friedman, Saul Bellow, T.S. Eliot, Charles Huggins, Roger Sperry, James Watson, and Enrico Fermi. Eleven of the 65 have been recognized for their work in physiology or medicine. Although we are proud of this tradition of excellence, even more important is the tremendous emphasis we place on ensuring that our patients receive the benefits from this tradition.

The University's Pritzker School of Medicine was founded in 1927. Recognized for excellence from its founding, the hospital and medical school have since expanded to occupy 15 interconnecting buildings next to the main university campus. Among these are Comer Children's Hospital; the Surgery-Brain Research Pavilion; Bernard Mitchell Hospital, where in-patient units are located; Chicago Lying-In Hospital; the Rubloff Intensive Care Tower; Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, a state-of-the-art outpatient care facility; and the Comer Children's Hospital, devoted to the medical needs of children.

The University's in-patient census remains robust, despite a decrease in hospital staff. To balance these trends, as well as anticipate the direction of health care reform, the hospital has undertaken dramatic changes in how it delivers health care and monitors the quality of services provided. Paramount in these changes has been the commitment to efficient delivery of the most advanced, highest quality services. The Hospitals and University have taken the lead in assuring quality nursing care by 1) paying the highest salaries in the Chicago area for nurses and 2) ensuring that the pay scale contains incentives to encourage nurses to work here exclusively. The University also continues its long-standing tradition of cultivating outstanding medical graduates, all of whom go on to become prominent practitioners, and many of whom go on to become faculty members. In fact, in a recent survey of graduates from 1974-83 by the American Association of Medical Colleges, the University ranked first in the percentage of students who became faculty.

The University is also known for its vigorous research tradition and educational programs. The University has consistently ranked among the top 20 programs for federal research grants and contracts. Continued clinical growth has been the major catalyst for recent changes in our residency. With the increases in surgical volume and surgical case complexity at the Hospitals and expansion to a number of affiliates at which our faculty practice throughout the greater Chicagoland area, our residents have the unique opportunity to learn and practice medicine in a diverse set of environments. The diversity and range of clinical opportunities provides, we believe, a critical foundation for medical practitioners to adapt to the often rapid changes in health care, and more importantly, to the fast pace of the anesthesia specialty.