History of the Deans
PART II OF III, 1891-1959
by Teresa Black
In commemoration of Allen Lichters appointment as dean
last May, the first six deans of the University of Michigan
Medical School were remembered in the previous issue of Medicine
at Michigan. While these forefathers established a solid foundation
for medical education at Michigan, there remained a substantial
way to go before the Medical School attained its respected status
of today. The deans from 1891 to 1959 were instrumental in effecting
the transformation from a good medical department to todays
leading institution with its international reputation in medical
research and education. The deans during this period initiated
clinical and laboratory work, a series of curriculum reforms,
dramatically expanded patient care, and strove to inspire higher
standards of excellence from their faculty, staff and students.
Prior to 1891 the deans were elected by fellow faculty members,
but due primarily to the growth of the University, the board
of regents decided that the dean would be appointed by the regents
and the president. The first dean of the Medical Department
appointed in such a way was bacteriologist and educator Victor
Vaughans education and personal qualities gave him solid
preparation for assuming a leadership position as dean at the
Medical School. Vaughan came from Missouri to Ann Arbor, attracted
in part by the Universitys excellent chemical laboratory,
in 1874. He earned three degrees from the University: an M.S.
in 1875, a Ph.D. in 1876 for chemistry, geology and biological
studies, and an M.D. in 1878. Vaughan started teaching physiological
chemistry in 1876 and held the positions of professor of physiological
and pathological chemistry and associate professor of therapeutics
and materia medica from 1883-1887.
He and Frederick Novy went to Germany to study bacteriological
technique under Robert Koch for a year at the University of
Berlin. In 1887 he founded a hygiene laboratory at Michigan,
and in that year he became professor of hygiene and physiological
chemistry as well as director of the laboratory. He received
an honorary LL.D. degree from the University in 1900.
Vaughans initial research was in medical chemistry. He
studied poisons, describing ptomaine poisoning and becoming
such an expert toxicologist that he served as a witness in many
criminal and civil trials. Vaughan recognized that poisoned
milk was caused by bacteria, and in 1885 discovered tyrotoxicon,
a poison that forms in dairy products. His research interests
then broadened to the nascent field of bacteriology, and included
as well sanitation and public health. After his European tour,
Vaughan returned to Michigan and instituted the first formal
laboratory courses in bacteriology in the U.S. in 1889. He co-founded
the Michigan State Board of Health, of which he was chairman
for many years.
Beyond his work in medical research and teaching, Vaughan
was active in the military, writing extensively on typhoid fever
and prevention of communicable diseases. He served as major
and surgeon in the Michigan Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American
War, and upon the outbreak of World War I, Vaughan was appointed
to serve under the surgeon general as a colonel in the Medical
Corps. In 1919 he was acknowledged with the Distinguished Service
Medal for his patriotic service in the war effort.
Vaughans tenure as dean from 1891 to 1921 had a tremendous
impact on the development and improvement of the University
of Michigan Medical School. He worked diligently to recruit
research-minded faculty from around the country with the attitude
that Medicine is a live, growing science, and no one is
entitled to hold a chair in a
medical school who is not
a contributor to the growth and development of his specialty.
[Kenneth M. Ludmerer, The University of Michigan Medical
School: A Tradition of Leadership, Medical Lives &
Scientific Medicine at Michigan, 1891-1969, ed. Joel D. Howell
(Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1993), p. 21.]
In the tradition of his predecessors Abram Sager, Silas Douglas
and Alonzo Palmer, Vaughan valued a curriculum that combined
basic science and clinical practice. Vaughan also helped raise
admission requirements, instituted a longer period of instruction,
and emphasized the importance of having a comprehensive library.
Vaughan was agreeable, relaxed, soft-spoken, and determined
to improve the standards of medicine at Michigan, encouraging
both students and faculty to conduct research. He was revered
as a leader, teacher, and researcher, and his leadership made
Michigan a paragon of modern medical education. He retired emeritus
from the University of Michigan in 1921, and died eight years
Succeeding Victor Vaughan as dean was Hugh Cabot, a
colorful and controversial figure. Called visionary by some,
tyrannical by others, Cabot accomplished much as dean and had
a remarkable academic career. He challenged the status quo to
bring change and innovation to the University of Michigan Medical
Cabot had developed a successful professional life before he
came to Michigan. He completed his A.B. and M.D. degrees at
Harvard University, where he was assistant professor of surgery
from 1912 to 1918, and professor of surgery from 1918 to 1919.
He interned in the Surgery Department of Massachusetts General
Hospital, specializing in urological surgery. Cabot spent most
of his time teaching and performing surgery rather than conducting
research. He wrote Modern Urology in 1918 and was one of the
first to suggest that urology ought to be a distinct specialty.
At Harvard, Cabot organized a medical unit before the United
States entered World War I, and from 1916 to 1919 he was honorary
lieutenant colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France.
When he returned from the war he found that his private practice
had practically vanished, so he decided to accept the U-M Medical
Schools offer to be a new full time professor.
Cabot thought Michigan would be more progressive than his home
state of Massachusetts since it had a university subsidized
by taxes and a shorter, less restrictive tradition. Cabot was
interested in making quality health care affordable for the
average citizen, and envisioned a health care system with full-time,
hospital-based group practices where patients would pay according
to their means. He strongly believed that medicine was a profession
that required scientific education and should benefit humankindthat
it was not simply a trade with monetary gain as a primary interest.
Seeking change and new opportunities, Cabot left conservative
Boston at age 47 to join the University of Michigan as professor
of surgery in 1919.
Cabot had a strong influence at the University of Michigan
as a teacher and as dean. He was a good speaker who gave vivid,
interesting lectures, and he was dedicated to maintaining high
standards of academic performance. Cabots protégés
included Reed Nesbit and Nobel Prize winner Charles Huggins.
He was chair of the department of surgery and head of the section
of urological surgery. When Cabot was appointed dean in 1921,
many faculty members had recently left the surgery department
because of the structural reorganization from part-time to full-time
teaching positions. This gave Cabot the opportunity to build
a new department, so he hired Frederick Coller, Leroy Abbott
and John Alexander, all eminent specialists. At this same time,
specialties within the department were differentiated into general,
orthopedic, neurosurgery, urological, and thoracic sections.
Cabot also oversaw the completion and staffing of the new
University Hospital on Ann Street, the East Medical Building
and the Simpson Memorial Institute. Also during Cabots
tenure, the Department of Biological Chemistry was established,
and most departments had graduate-level training programs. In
accordance with a resolution passed in 1921 by the state legislature,
Cabot effected the closing of the Homeopathic Medical College
by combining it with the regular medical school.
While Cabot was accomplished as dean, some of his actions caused
members of the faculty to hold him in high disfavor. Cabot was
described by one of his trainees, Henry K. Ransom, as short
and stocky in build with a sturdy physique, a brusque manner
and a domineering attitude. [H. K. Ransom, The Department
of Surgery of the University of Michigan during the Cabot Administration
(1919-1930) (Internal document, University of Michigan
Department of Surgery), p. 4.] It has been suggested that the
influence of American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, a friend
of Cabots father present during his formative years, fostered
Cabots tendency to speak honestly and directly
sometimes at the risk of his personal relationships.
Aggravating an already unstable dynamic at the Medical School
was Cabots confrontation of the ongoing issue of part-time
faculty seeing private patients. Cabot disapproved of professors
who put a lot of time and attention into their private practice
but neglected their teaching and hospital responsibilities.
Cabots aforementioned economic ideology and support of
a full-time faculty threatened private practitioners, who eventually
aligned with the Michigan State Medical Society to formally
oppose the full-time method at the hospital. Cabot
held steadfast in his principles, but in order to assuage the
unrest, the regents requested Cabots resignation early
in 1930. His dedication and integrity did leave a positive mark,
however, as many of his innovative policies were quietly accepted
by the Medical School decades later.
After Hugh Cabots departure, the administration at the
Medical School went through a transitional period. Instead of
immediately appointing another dean, the regents selected an
Executive Committee of five faculty members. The original Committee
was formed midway through the 1929-1930 academic year, consisting
of James Bruce, G. Carl Huber, Frederick Novy, Max Peet, and
Udo Wile, with President Ruthven as chairman, ex officio. The
following academic year Harley A. Haynes and assistant professor
Arthur C. Curtis replaced Huber and Peet, and Frederick Novy
became chairman of the committee. The Executive Committee directed
the affairs of the school from 1930 to 1933, overseeing the
appointment of five new department chairmen and the addition
of two new floors to the hospital. The Executive Committee still
exists today with the dean as chair.
D. Bruce served on the Executive Committee as director of
postgraduate medicine. He earned his M.D. degree from the Detroit
Medical College in 1896, and practiced for eight years before
starting his graduate studies at the U-M Medical School. He
was an assistant in the Department of Internal Medicine, and
practiced general medicine and surgery in Saginaw from 1906
to 1925. Bruce served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in France
during World War I, and from 1923 to 1934 he was councilor of
the Michigan State Medical Society. Believing that standards
of medical service needed to improve, Bruce gave up his private
practice to lead the Department of Internal Medicine at Michigan.
In 1931 he was appointed vice-president in charge of university
relations, a position he held until retiring as vice president
emeritus in 1942. Bruce strongly supported continuing education
for physicians and helped create medical teaching centers around
J. Wile served as director of clinical medicine on the Executive
Committee. Wile became professor of dermatology at the age of
28 and was at the time the youngest member of the medical faculty
ever to be given the rank of professor and chairman of the department.
He had studied with distinguished physicians and researchers
in Europe, and enjoyed an encyclopedic knowledge of dermatology.
Albert Furstenberg, later dean of the Medical School, related
this story about Wile:
When he [Wile] arrived in town he looked a little timid and
embarrassed. Some of the older faculty members thought they
would have some fun with him. They told him that at the annual
convocation that marked the opening of the Medical School,
he would be expected to give an inspiring extemporaneous speech.
Naturally, he went to the convocation with fear and trembling
and was miserable throughout the exercises. Finally, when
all of the events of the program were over, Dean Victor C.
Vaughan arose and said, My Christian friends, students
of the Medical School, it now becomes my privilege and pleasure
to introduce a new member of the medical faculty. I shall
not ask him to speak. I merely want him to stand up so that
you will not mistake him for a freshman. [Albert C.
Furstenberg, My Teachers in the Medical School,
Our Michigan: An Anthology Celebrating the University of
Michigans Sesquicentennial, ed. Erich A. Walter
(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1966), pp. 43-50.]
Having survived this mild hazing, Wile proved to be a valuable
faculty member and became chairman of the Department of Dermatology.
He clearly showed his students how medical knowledge applied
to clinical problems, and Albert Furstenberg wrote that he created
a measure of leadership in our programs of undergraduate
and graduate medical education. [Ibid.] He was optimistic,
had genuine concern for the welfare of his patients, and received
respect and admiration from his students and colleagues.
A. Haynes, director of the University Hospital, brought
economic savvy paired with medical experience to the Executive
Committee. Earlier in his career, he was a clerk in the auditors
office of the Central Vermont Railroad. He redirected his interests
toward medicine, and received his medical degree from the University
of Michigan in 1902. He completed a surgical internship in the
University Hospital from 1902 to 1903, and was resident physician
at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia. In 1924 Haynes was named
director of University Hospital, holding the position until
he retired as director emeritus in 1945. He was one of the first
to introduce cost accounting to hospital administration. Besides
working as a physician and administrator, Haynes later became
president of the State Savings Bank of Ann Arbor, and a director
of the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company in Detroit.
a member of the Executive Committee was Arthur C. Curtis,
secretary of the Medical School. Curtis graduated from the U-M
Medical School in 1925, interned at University Hospital, and
moved his way up the ranks from instructor of internal medicine
in 1928 to associate professor in 1935. In 1941 he started postgraduate
training at the Mayo Clinic, and returned to the University
of Michigan in 1942 to be professor of dermatology. Curtis was
chairman of the Department of Dermatology from 1946-1967, and
served on numerous professional organizations, including the
American Board of Dermatology, of which he was president. Curtis
became a world-renowned dermatologist, and had a lifelong dedication
to medicine at the University of Michigan.
chairman of the Executive Committee and director of pre-clinical
medicine was Frederick G. Novy, who was formally appointed
dean in 1933. He held a brief two-year tenure as dean, but throughout
his long career he made a great contribution to the Medical
School. As a boy, he had saved money to buy a microscope, which
he had used to study samples from nearby swamps. Novy went on
to study at the University of Michigan, where he received four
degrees: a B.S. in chemistry in 1886, an M.S. in 1887, a Sc.D.
in 1890, and an M.D. in 1891. He went to Europe with Victor
Vaughan to study in the laboratories of Pasteur and Koch and
to purchase equipment for use in a bacteriology course. Novys
class was so successful that it became a requirement for students
in the Medical School. In 1902 he became professor of bacteriology,
heading the department from 1902 to 1935.
Novy was an accomplished and innovative researcher, and his
work truly spanned bacteriology, protozoology, virology, and
immunology. He was one of the first to demonstrate anaphylatoxin,
a histamine, which laid groundwork for future developments in
antihistamines. He discovered one of the two organisms that
causes gas gangrene, known later as Novys bacillus, and
invented laboratory tools such as the Novy coverslip forceps
and the Novy anaerobe jar. Novy was on the Michigan Board of
Health from 1897 to 1899, and with Victor Vaughan helped educate
the public about the germ theory of disease, food poisoning,
disinfection, and control of communicable diseases such as diphtheria
and typhoid fever. He was a member of the U.S. Commission to
Study Bubonic Plague in San Francisco, California, in 1901,
and treated a case of pneumonia plague in a University student.
He received the honorary LL.D. degree from the University of
Michigan in 1936.
Frederick Novy was loved and respected by colleagues and students,
and even in his 22 years of retirement, he was sought as an
expert authority and counselor. He had a colorful personality,
which Sinclair Lewis drew on for the character of Dr. Gottlieb
in his highly popular novel Arrowsmith. He had little interest
in nonscientific and social activities, but he was witty and
had a good sense of humor, his remarks often preceded by a twinkle
in his eye or a wink. Novy had many characteristic mannerisms,
providing rich material for imitation by his students. For example,
his students vividly remembered that he had a tall, striking
appearance in the amphitheater and would wind one leg around
the other while lecturing. He was a world-class bacteriologist
and teacher, as well as an American pioneer in microbiology
and important leader at the U-M Medical School.
the retirement of Novy, Albert C. Furstenberg was appointed
dean in 1935. Furstenberg served 24 years as dean, and his stable
yet enthusiastic leadership propelled the U-M Medical School
into a fully modern institution. A Michigan native, Furstenberg
showed an interest in medicine even at the young age of eight
by accompanying a local physician on house calls. Later he attended
the University of Michigan, earning his B.S. in 1913 and his
M.D. in 1915. From 1915 to 1916 he held an internship at University
Hospital, and started a practice in Ann Arbor which he kept
until his retirement in 1965. Furstenberg specialized in otolaryngology,
and he conducted research on the fascial planes of the neck
and neurology of the ear, nose, and larynx. He also studied
Menieres disease, osteomyelitis of the skull, and conductive
deafness, and wrote numerous papers.
In 1918 Furstenberg became instructor of otolaryngology, and
he moved his way up the ranks to chairman of the department
in 1932. His teaching at Michigan earned him much respect and
admiration. He was a great lecturer and teacher, and cared enough
about his students to become personal friends to many of them.
He encouraged and advised his students by telling them, that
if they were willing to devote their lives to it, medicine would
be a better way of life than any other.
In 1935, Furstenberg was appointed dean. He proved to be an
excellent leader and energetic administrator, always thinking
ahead to the future of the Medical School. He made considerable
effort to expand and improve the facilities, achieving great
success. During his tenure as dean, the University of Michigan
Medical School became the largest in the country. Classes were
expanded to 200 students, and Furstenberg helped select outstanding
teachers and scientists for the faculty. Since former dean Hugh
Cabot did not especially promote research at the Medical School,
Furstenberg helped revitalize this aspect of medical education
at Michigan. Michigan became a premier medical research institution,
and facilities were expanded thanks to government and private
funds. Furstenbergs ongoing friendships with philanthropists
Sebastian Kresge and Charles Stewart Mott helped facilitate
their financial contributions to the Medical Center. Their substantial
gifts helped establish the Kresge Research Building in 1953,
the Kresge Library in 1955, the Institute of Industrial Health
in 1957, the Kresge Hearing Research Institute in 1962, and
the C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital in 1969.
An example of Furstenbergs excellent leadership capabilities
was his response to national need during World War II. Furstenberg
had some military experience, having served as 1st Lieutenant
with the U.S. Army Medical Reserve Corps in Ann Arbor during
World War I, and as consultant to the Office of the Surgeon
General of the Army during World War II. When a shortage of
physicians developed during World War II, Furstenberg temporarily
accelerated the medical program at Michigan.
In addition to his other accomplishments, Furstenberg was
the National Research Council subcommittee chairman, and an
honorary member of the Army Medical Library. His distinguished
career was recognized with many professional honors, and in
1960 he was named dean emeritus. He died in Ann Arbor in 1969.
Furstenberg was the last dean to divide his time between departmental
administration, private practice, and direction of the Medical
School. William Hubbard became the first full-time dean in 1959.
This new era of leadership leading up to the present will be
explored in the next issue of Medicine at Michigan, in conclusion
of this three-part series on the history of the deans of the
University of Michigan Medical School.
Teresa Black, an Ann Arbor native, is a recent
graduate, in anthropology, of New York University.
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