History of the Department of Anatomy

Articles of Establishment of the Medical Department of Western Reserve College in Cleveland, (also known as Cleveland Medical College until 1881) adopted on March 20th, 1844, named Jacob John Delamater (son of John Delamater, also a founding member) as the lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology and established six professorships of which Anatomy and Physiology was one. Delamater became the Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in 1846 and continued through 1856. From the very first class, the Medical School was unique in requiring examination in practical anatomy, a laboratory course that involved dissection (until 1896 there was no adequate law in Ohio for legal acquisition of cadavers). The faculty named a demonstrator in Anatomy every year. Anatomy was the only required laboratory course until 1888.

Proctor Thayer succeeded Delamater as Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in 1856, serving until 1864 (the final year as Professor of Surgery and Anatomy). Isaac Newton Himes, a future Dean of the Medical School, served one year as Professor of Anatomy and Physiology (1864-5) before Jacob Laisy was named Professor of Anatomy.

In 1870, a lecturer, Eben J. Cutler, was named in Surgical Anatomy and served through 1874.  Benjamin Wallace Holliday was the Professor of Anatomy from 1873 to 1879. During these years, Jacob Laisy was Professor of Osteology; he was later restored as Professor of Anatomy and served through 1881. Jacob Laisy (who had again been the professor of Osteology 1881-1887) became the Professor of Practical Anatomy in 1887 for direct instruction in the anatomy lab. Prior to this time, dissection was under demonstrators and preceptors.

Henry Whitley Kitchen was named Professor of Anatomy in 1881 and served until 1893, when Carl August Hamann was given the position. The Henry Wilson Payne Endowed Chair in Anatomy was established at the end of 1903. This was the first endowed chair at the medical school and Hamann was the first to hold the chair.  Hamann served as Professor of Anatomy until 1911 when he was named Professor of Applied Anatomy and Clinical Surgery, a post he held until his death in 1930. Hamann also served as Dean of the Medical School from 1912 to 1928.

Hamann started the now extensive human and non-human skeleton collection that was originally called “The Hamann Museum of Comparative Anthropology and Anatomy” and later came to be known as the “Hamann-Todd Osteological Collection”. It served as a museum in the Anatomy Laboratory until it was moved to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where it is currently on permanent loan.

Thomas Wingate Todd succeeded Hamann as Chair of the Anatomy Department in 1911 as the first Henry Wilson Payne Professor of Anatomy and continued as chair until his death in 1938. This represents the establishment of the Department of Anatomy in its modern sense. Todd also directed the Brush Foundation (established in 1928) and initiated the Bolton Study (now known as the Bolton-Brush Growth Study) in 1930.

After Todd’s death, he was succeeded as chair by Normand Louis Hoerr.  When Hoerr died in 1958, Samuel Wood Chase was made interim chair until Marcus Singer was recruited in 1961. After Singer suffered a stroke, Anthony Mahowald was recruited as chair in 1982 replacing interim chair (1980-1982) Edward H. Bloch, MD, PhD. The Department name was changed in 1983 to Developmental Genetics and Anatomy to reflect the chairman’s main field of research. When the Department of Genetics (now Genetics and Genome Sciences) was split off from the Department of Anatomy in 1988, Dr. Barry Lindley was named acting chair and the name Department of Anatomy was restored. The Department of Neurosciences was established in 1989 out of the Center for Neurosciences, which was based in the Department of Anatomy under Story Landis. When Lindley left in 1993, Joseph C. LaManna of the Department of Neurosciences became the acting chair and was named the Chair in 2004. LaManna continued in this role until 2008, when he was replaced by interim chair Daniel Ornt, MD, who was also the Vice Dean for Medical Education and Academic Affairs. Following Ornt’s departure, Dr. Clifford Harding MD, PhD was appointed interim chair of the Department of Anatomy in 2012 and continues in that role today. He also serves as the chair of the Department of Pathology and director of the CWRU Clinical and Translational Scientist Program (CTSTP), the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), and the Diagnostic Institute.

Anatomy Training

In 1919, the size of the class of medical students was set at 55. This was increased to 60 in 1921 and expanded to 75 in 1924 with the opening of the new medical education building (now known as the Harland G. Wood building). The class size was increased again in the mid 1970’s to 150 (inclusive of MD/PhD students registered as graduate students). Currently, class size is 184 students for the CWRU SOM University Program.  The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM) has an additional 32 students based at the Cleveland Clinic and staffed by faculty of that CWRU affiliate. 

In 1876, there were 260 hours of Anatomy instruction in the curriculum, five hours of lecture and 8 hours of lab each week for 20 weeks. In 1877, this was expanded to 24 weeks. During this time, Anatomy education represented 29% of the curriculum. By 1881, the curriculum was a three-year sequence with anatomy and dissection lab repeated in the second year. Beginning in 1881, the Medical School required an entrance exam. The modern style of medical education began in 1888 with a graded curriculum with laboratory courses in four subjects. During the first two years of the three- year course, there were 120 plus 96 hours of Anatomy lectures and recitations with 24 hours of dissection required. There was an option in the first year for 48 hours of either more dissection or histology, and an option in the second year for 96 hours of histology or physiology lab. There were a total of 624 hours in the first year and 768 hours in the second year. Thus, Anatomy (with histology and optional lab) was between 21 and 28% of the contact time during the first two years. A full four-year educational curriculum was required as of 1899.  In 1901, the teaching of histology and comparative anatomy involved 195 hours. An embryology lab was added to bring the total in 1901 to 330 hours of which 80% were lab work.

A new curriculum was introduced in 1909-10, and in 1910, Ohio Wesleyan Medical College (est. 1896) was consolidated into the Medical Department of Western Reserve University (at the urging of Abraham Flexner). In 1910, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching listed the Medical Department of Western Reserve University as second only to Johns Hopkins among American Medical Schools (the “Flexner Report”). 

In 1907, gross anatomy subjects encompassed 1,100 hours over a three-year period in the curriculum. In 1945 there were 440 hours of dissection of the adult and infant cadavers. This was cut back to 280 hours by 1950, prior to introducing the new systems-based curriculum to the class entering in 1952. The total number of hours devoted to gross anatomy, histology, neurology, and embryology was 632 hours, taught by the Department of Anatomy in the first six months of the first year. This content was maintained in the new curriculum but was spread over three years. In the first year of the new curriculum, anatomy had 80 out of the net teaching 1,413 hours (6%). In 1995, gross anatomy lecture and dissection labs totaled 128 contact hours.

In 2000, a new and separate longitudinal block for anatomy and histology was established to reinforce the necessity of this content in the SOM core curriculum. The anatomical sciences content paralleled that of the systems-based curriculum but was established to provide greater accountability in student performance in these areas. A separate anatomical sciences block was maintained with the adoption of the revised Western Reserve 2 (WR2) curriculum in 2006. Beginning in 2019, the anatomy training will be part of longitudinal theme called GARLA (Gross Anatomy, Radiology, Living Anatomy) for first and second-year medical students (MS1 & MS2). With the move to the new Health Education Campus (HEC), a new dual approach to gross anatomy training has incorporated HoloLens technology throughout most of the WR2 anatomy curriculum and an intensive two-week dissection experience (Anatomy Boot Camp).