Department History


A Brief History of the Department of Anesthesiology

Physician anesthesia in the United States began in earnest after the Second World War, almost a century after the demonstration of ether by WTG Morton in the ether dome of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in October 1846. Prior to this time, anesthesia was provided by the surgeon alone, by a student doctor, or by a nurse directed and trained by the surgeon in the USA. Detroit was an early beneficiary of this new growth in physician-dedicated involvement to anesthesia and perioperative medicine in the USA.

The first resident training program in Michigan is the Wayne State University program begun by Dr. Ivan B. Taylor in 1946. Dr. Taylor had been trained by Drs. Ralph Waters (Madison, WI) and Emery Rovenstine (Bellevue, NY) from 1935-1938 before he became the first Chief of Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania prior to moving to Detroit in 1941. Dr. Taylor's extensive correspondence from 1935-1949 with Dr. Waters is on copy in the Department taken from files in the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Dr. Taylor was succeeded by Dr. F. E. Greifenstein whose contemporaries in Detroit, Dr. Paul Dumke and Dr. Eli Brown, developed the third and fourth residencies at Henry Ford Hospital and Sinai Hospital in Detroit. A second residency had begun at Providence (now St. John-Providence) in the 1940s.

Although the suburbs surrounding Detroit prospered, by 1975 Detroit's population was in serious decline, about or slightly less than 1 million in 2001, with a slightly increased population in Southeastern Michigan. In 1975, the Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University residencies closed leaving only Sinai under Dr. Eli Brown and a small program at Providence. Dr. Brown, now emeritus, became the Professor of Anesthesiology at Wayne State University in the 1970s. In 1998, Dr. H. Michael Marsh was appointed his successor.

The School of Nurse Anesthesia was established by Dr. Dal Santo, the Chair who succeeded Dr. Greifenstein. As Sinai Hospital merged into the Detroit Medical Center, the residency started by Dr. Brown has again become the Wayne State University Residency and Fellowship Program.

For the complete history of the Department of Anesthesiology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, view here.

For more information regarding the study of anesthesia, please visit the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology.



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