The Department of Surgery began with the creation of the medical school in 1834. Department leaders—and their outstanding accomplishments during their tenure—are outlined below.

Dr. Horace A. Ackley

  • First chairman of the Department of Surgery
  • Original founder of the Willoughby Medical College; moved the school to Cleveland to start what ultimately became the Medical Department of the Western Reserve College
  • The original Medical Department in Willoughby eventually became the Starling Medical College at the Ohio State University
  • Was a skilled anatomist, a formidable surgeon and a community activist
  • The first to use Ether

Dr. Gustav Carl Erich Weber

  • Realized the importance of using inpatients for student teaching; used the Marine Hospital for this purpose
  • Was the surgeon general for Ohio during the Civil War
  • Started the alternative medical school at St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital

Dr. Proctor Thayer

  • A long period of growth for the department during his tenure
  • Along with Dr. Weber, brought the two downtown medical schools together; funds were donated for the construction of a new medical school building, still in downtown
  • The medical school curriculum was lengthened
  • Innovations in the operating room during this time included the use of Lister’s carbolic spray and topical antiseptics (soap) and new instruments such as the thermometer

Dr. Charles Barnsdall Parker

  • The medical school curriculum was extended to three years of formal instruction
  • Chemistry, physiology and histology were introduced 
  • Fiscal tensions resulted in his resignation

Dr. Dudley Peter Allen

  • Begins the “modern” era of surgical and medical education
  • Actively revised the medical school curriculum prior to the Flexner report of 1909, which changed medical education in the United States
  • The new curriculum involved seven departments and 4,100 hours of instruction along with expanded entrance requirements
  • National leader in surgical education, which continues to this day

Dr. George Washington Crile

  • Began practice as a trauma surgeon in Cleveland
  • -Went to France as part of the American Ambulance Service in which academic hospitals sent a complete hospital staff as a unit
  • During the 1920s, worked to create the following in University Circle: Lakeside Hospital; the Pathology Institute; Babies and Children Hospital: and the MacDonald House Hospital for obstetrics and gynecology
  • Upon retiring, rejoined former private practice partners to further a new venture: Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Elliott C. Cutler

  • Served with the Harvard unit that relieved Dr. Crile’s American Ambulance Service in Paris
  • Began academic career with neurosurgeon at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Dr. Harvey Cushing; shortly thereafter, was appointed chairman of our Department
  • Created a full-time teaching faculty and strengthened commitment to surgical research for both the faculty and residents
  • Eventually returned to PBBH as Harvey Cushing’s successor
  • The list of surgical trainees from both institutions formed the core of surgical professors and leaders for the next 30 years

Dr. Carl Henri Lenhart

  • Became chairman during the Great Depression 
  • First recipient of the endowed Oliver H. Payne Chair of Surgery
  • Due to financially turbulent times, all the full-time faculty were forced to revert to private practice

Dr. William D. Holden

  • Advanced one academic rank per year, becoming professor and chairman in 1950
  • Expanded the geographic full-time faculty whose base salaries allowed them to spend less time on private practice and more on teaching and research
  • Combined the surgical residencies of University Hospitals, the Cleveland VA Hospital and Cleveland Metro General Hospital into the unified Case Western Reserve general surgery residency program in 1970
  • Integrated some surgical specialties with general surgery in order to give joint credit for research years – this allowed the specialty chief residency to count as the chief year in general surgery, shortening the residency training years for those on an academic pathway

Dr. Jerry Mark Shuck

  • Surgeon, pharmacist and professional baseball player
  • Brought a renewed commitment to excellence in teaching of residents and medical students and further development of the academic faculty
  • Division of general surgery doubled in size
  • Areas of special expertise were developed—The Breast Center, Transplantation, Vascular, Bariatric and Minimally Invasive (Laparoscopic) Procedures
  • Oversaw the expansion of the clinical scope of the department into ambulatory surgery at the Green Road USHC and at University Hospitals and into the clinical offices at the main campus and suburban locations
  • Became director and associate dean of Graduate Medical Education for the Hospital

Dr. James A. Schulak

  • Transplant surgeon recruited by Dr. Shuck in 1985; dramatically increased the number of kidney transplantations, and established liver and pancreas transplant programs while establishing a national reputation in transplant immunology and reperfusion injury research
  • As chairman, he stabilized the practice patterns within the divisions and restructured medical student and resident education

Dr. Jeffrey L. Ponsky

  • The Oliver H. Payne Professor and Chairman
  • Was chief of surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital the quality of his educational program was such that it was integrated into the Case surgical residency
  • Has received numerous awards including: the prestigious Rudolf Schindler Award by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (2002) in recognition for excellence in endoscopic research, teaching and service; the Pioneer in Endoscopy Award from SAGES; and the SAGES George Berci Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Co-invented the percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) procedure