DAB Matula Thoughts November 1, 2019
One hundred years of urology
The origin of urology at the University of Michigan centers around its first three urologists Hugh Cabot, Charles Huggins, and Reed Nesbit, each having enormous impact in their individual ways. Cabot’s impact was academic, clinical, and organizational. Huggins came to Michigan for what was then called “postgraduate training” under Cabot and was inspired to a career in urology that took him to the University of Chicago as chief of urology and eventually to a Nobel Prize. Nesbit, roommate of Huggins as trainees, became Cabot’s successor and a noteworthy urologist, whose clinical innovation, organization leadership, and education of future leaders of his century, had few equals.
The story of genitourinary surgery, of course, actually began much earlier, with pre-Hippocratic roots and slow evolution until the second half of the 19th century when health sciences, modern technology, and medical subspecialties emerged and revolutionized medical care. The University of Michigan story is entwined with those changes, as one of the earliest public universities and in 1869 it was the first university to own and operate a teaching hospital. By the early 20th century the University of Michigan Medical School was noteworthy among its peers in teaching and research, but lagged behind in the clinical arena, a fact that some viewed as due to its small-town location. After the 1902 neologism by Ramon Guiteras the term ii replaced that of genitourinary surgery, although not until many years later in Ann Arbor.
Exactly one hundred years ago, on November 1, 1919, the University of Michigan Medical School, although still stuck in educational and clinical paradigms of the previous century, was on the precipice of major change that would launch it into the major leagues of 20th century academic medicine. Dean Victor Vaughan, an immeasurable influence since his arrival in 1874 as one of Michigan’s first two Ph.D. candidates, had been distracted by duties in Washington during WWI and was reeling from the death of one of his sons who had been about to return home from his service in Europe on the Western Front. Vaughan had other national leadership responsibilities on his plate in addition to the war effort and his inattention to Michigan had left the Medical School without chairs for its two main departments – internal medicine and surgery. In Boston Hugh Cabot had recently returned home from 2.5 years of service overseas to find his private surgical and urologic practice “evaporated.” He discovered the Ann Arbor opportunity for a fulltime salaried job as chair of surgery and jumped at it. Beginning work on October 12, 1919, he initially stayed at the Michigan Union, but soon convinced the regents to allow him with his wife and four children to live in the unoccupied University’s President House until a new president was in place.
Cabot was a necessary change agent for the Medical School. He was a top-of-the-line international urologic celebrity even before his 1918 textbook Modern Urology. It is telling that his predecessors in genitourinary teaching and practice at Michigan, interim surgery chair Cyrenus Darling and clinical professor Ira Dean Loree, had been holding on to the older name for the field. Cabot was a self-declared urologist. A prolific speaker and writer, he was assiduous in connecting with new ideas, other specialties, and novel technologies. During the war he became a skillful administrator, ultimately rising to Commanding Officer (CO) of a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) hospital with over 2,000 beds near the front. While he would bring leadership and modernity to Ann Arbor, his brusque style had already created detractors on the national scene, as evident in files at the Bentley Library where a letter to Victor Vaughan from Bostonian Dr. Frederick Shattuck on September 30, 1919 commented:
I am greatly interested in your capture of Hugh Cabot for whom I have high regard and much affection, not so much because he is a first cousin of my wife, though very much younger, as for himself and what he is. His departure will be a loss to me, personally, and I think a loss to this community; but the more I reflect on the matter the more I feel that he can render greater service, and thus derive greater satisfaction from life by accepting your offer. Like other strong, positive men, he has made enemies, but I think his capacity to deal with men developed markedly during his service as C.O. of Base Hospital No. 22, B.E.F. There were difficulties connected with that practice which do not appear upon the surface, and it is my belief that, taking all things into consideration, he handled the job extremely well…”
Shattuck concluded the note offering condolence to Vaughan on the recent loss of a son in Europe, referring to the actual moment Vaughan got the terrible news just about as he was to preside over a session of the AMA at its Atlantic City meeting that summer. Cabot also must have been at that meeting, according to the correspondence, and it is likely that it was when and where he first learned of the Ann Arbor job, perhaps directly from Vaughan (letter below).
The first century of urology in Ann Arbor: October 1919 to October 2020. Michigan Urology now entertains a year-long celebration of its centennial. Cabot introduced modern urology to the University of Michigan when he arrived on October 12, 1919, and began to build a formidable clinical engine. He recognized that clinical practice is the essential piece of the tripartite mission of academic medicine, providing the milieu for medical education, factory for new knowledge, and regional reference point for clinical expertise. The clinical milieu generates inquiry and provides a testing ground for the ideas and technology to improve healthcare, and it is the spiritual center of the organization. Clinical programs provide the essential deliverable of academic medical centers. The clinical enterprise is also the financial engine.
Since 1972, Michigan Urology has called its alumni group the Nesbit Society, not from ingratitude to Cabot, but out of respect to his trainee Reed M. Nesbit who became the first Section Head of Urology, after Cabot’s abrupt departure in February, 1930. Over the next 37 years Nesbit made Ann Arbor an epicenter for medical education and clinical innovation. Nesbit trained nearly 80 residents and fellows (we are still trying to determine the exact number), and an extraordinary number of them became leaders in academia and their communities. As a principal innovator and master of transurethral prostatectomy, Nesbit made Ann Arbor a destination for doctors wanting to learn the operation as well as for “patients in-the-know” to get treatment. A number of Cabot’s other clinical faculty also became internationally dominant figures in their newly evolving clinical arenas, of thoracic surgery, neurosurgery, and orthopaedics as well as general surgery, thus bringing the University of Michigan to the center stage of clinical medicine for the first time in its evolution. Nevertheless, Cabot’s vision of a synchronous multispecialty academic health system eluded the University because the hospital functions and professional units (the clinical faculty) were competitive rather than synchronized.
The Nesbit 2019 Scientific Day last month was packed: Peggy Pearle from UT Southwestern in Dallas (above, with Stu Wolf from Dell Medical School in Austin, and Rod Dunn from our Dow Health Services Division) was featured as our Nesbit Visiting Professor with one talk on controversies in medical management of stones as well as another on ureteroscopy; UM President Emeritus Jim Duderstadt discussed the unique impact of the University looking back and looking forward; Jim Cogswell of the School of Art and Design gave a multimedia presentation on the mysteries of dark matter; Dan Dierdorf UM offensive lineman from the famed 1969 team and famed sportscaster presented his Michigan Memories; Stuart Wolf our own star faculty alumnus described the Michigan lessons he is deploying at the new Dell Medical School in Austin, and our departmental leaders gave updates on their divisions including Program Director Kate Kraft and CopMich Co-chair Jens Sønksen. This writer presented Centennial Thoughts and Ganesh Palapattu gave the State of the Department address. We had many wonderful returning alumni and I wish I could have shown them all on these pages, but more pictures can be found on the Nesbit100.com website. I also wish we could have had our traditional alumni talks, but we deferred those for this special Centennial Program, save for Peter Fisher’s unique talk of his personal experience that was both terrifying and uplifting: Everyone should experience sudden cardiac death —- and live. [Below from the top: Dan Dierdorf, Pete Fisher between Will Roberts and Phil Sweetser, Ganesh & Manfred Stöhrer.]
Manfred Stöhrer from Germany, Jens Sønsken from Denmark, and Kash Siddiqi from the UAE travelled far for this meeting. Some of us had been with Jens just a few weeks earlier in Copenhagen, and our ties to him and his team in Copenhagen go back nearly 30 years. The association with Manfred is just as long, with strong ties through Ed McGuire (below) and myself. Our actual but geographically distant faculty included Sherman Silber, now adjunct professor from St. Louis (below with postdoc Yuting Fan – Fanny), and Brian Stork and Jessica Phelps of our Muskegon West Shore Urology practice.
We consider UMMS graduates, residency trainees and alumni, faculty, regional colleagues, and other friends of the Department of Urology as Nesbit Society members, and many joined us to enrich the meeting. Bruce Bracken, John Hall, Phil Sweetser, Betty Newsom, the Chang duo of Cheng-Yang and Ted, Mike Rashid, Dave Morris, the Taub duo of Marc and David, the Kozminski duo of Mike and Michael, C. Peter Fischer, Howard Usitalo, Stan Swierzewski, Charles Gershon, Charles Reynolds, Jay Hollander, Amy Li, Parth Shah, Hugh Solomon, Joanne Dale, George Schade, Noah Canvasser, Katy Konkle, Bert Chen, Tim Schuster, Craig Kozler with son Oliver, Pete Fisher with son Jake who was interviewing for medical school, Brian Lane, Herk Khaira, Atreya Dash, Ray Tan, Ron Suh, and Scott Gilbert. Rebekah Beach, Frank Begun, Tim Bradford, David Burks, Ward Gillett, David Harold, Will Johnston, Earl Koenig, Surendra Kumar, Amy Luckenbaugh, David Perlow, Paul Sonda, and Nick Styn. Ed Kleer and Elena Gimenez from St. Joseph’s Hospital. Samir Basata, Bob Isacksen, Andre King, David Lutchka, Konda Mouli, Eric Stockall, and David Wenzler. UMMS alumnus Richard Tsou came from Hawaii Pacific Health. Jim Peabody and Nesbit alum Hans Stricker from Henry Ford Health System. From East Lansing we were honored to have Shirley Harding from Michigan State and Nesbit alum Len Zuckerman and Sparrow Residents Margeaux Dennis, Eric McKeever, Andrew Schwinn, Alex Shannon, and Ross Voelker. David Miller won the Konnak Faculty Service Award.
The evening reception at Zingerman’s Greyline event space at the Marriott was terrific with Thad Polk and Red Berenson who offered stories of hockey and Putin. Next year’s meeting will conclude this year-long Centennial Celebration of Michigan Urology and will center around the Wisconsin football contest. The dates will be September 24-26, 2020.
The game. The tailgate at Nub Turner’s GTH Investments provided a more relaxed social gathering point than the scientific program of the previous day. With the concurrent Homecoming Weekend and Parent’s Weekend, Ann Arbor was hopping. The victory over Iowa was a modest win, and it was largely won by our defense. The B-52 flyover was a crowd-pleaser, and the Veteran of the Game was a UM graduate named Thomas Houdek (below).
Michigan Urology has many notable veterans, although none more distinguished than Edward J. McGuire, the man who succeeded Jack Lapides in 1983 and hired me in 1984. Courtesy of Julian Wan we sat in the Club seats with Khaled and Mary Ellen Hafez (below).
Seasonal note. Autumn is fishing season in academic medicine when senior medical students prowl the nation’s training programs for residency education to select where they hope to learn their lives’ work. This process of residency training, postgraduate medical education, was quite informal in Cabot’s time, a century ago – a sort of “arrange-it-yourself” process for periods of time from weeks to years in length. Now the process has been standardized and is regulated by professional organizations including the AUA, ABU, ABMS, and ACGME.
Training programs simultaneously audition medical students in clinical clerkships in summer and fall of the senior years and interview them formally in fall and winter. Each party then submits their “rank lists” to a national site and matches are made for urology residency training positions. The process of interviews, selection, and then the actual residency training of 5-8 years is delegated to the Program Director, a position that has grown increasingly complex over the years since the terms of Gary Faerber, Khaled Hafez, and now Kate Kraft. Selection, education, and supervision of residents requires a small village of helpers and Kate is assisted by Sapan Ambani and a team of committees. This year Michigan Urology had over 375 applicants, offered around 66 interviews, and will end up matching with four trainees who will begin their residency training next July 1. Michigan Urology matched five last year, one of whom will have an 8-year period that will include a substantial research component, and this is Joel Berends. Ganesh, Khaled, Kate, and Sapan plan to alternate 4 and 5 year classes.
Vaughan’s reply to Shattuck. Only two days after Shattuck’s revealing response to the dean’s reference inquiry, Vaughan replied:
“My dear Friend:-
I am fully aware of the fact that Dr. Hugh Cabot being as strong a man as he is has made enemies and their criticisms have not failed to reach my ear, at least some of them. However I believe in Dr. Hugh Cabot and am greatly pleased that the prospect lies before me of having him as my colleague in work which I believe to be of the greatest importance to the future of American medicine. I congratulate myself and my school upon being able to obtain his services.
I wish to thank you for your words of sympathy. I had five sons in the Army and it seemed that the good fortune of having all of them returned to us was about to be accomplished. My eldest son was Chief of the Medical Service in the Roosevelt Hospital at Chaumont during the entire period of the war. After the armistice he was detailed to work up typhoid fever in the American Expeditionary Force. He had collected all of his data and was on his way home when he was accidentally drowned in a small river in France. It is the first time that death has visited our family. Time alone will assuage the sorrow but words of sympathy from such a dear friend as you will do much to mitigate our sorrow. Yours sincerely, V.C. Vaughan” [letter below]
In little over a decade Cabot brought the University of Michigan Medical School into the top tier of academic health centers. He recognized that a superb, attractive, and financially robust clinical engine was at the center of medical academia and he delivered on that necessity. Yet he spent down political capital rather than building it and he had a tin ear for the faculty and staff he led; it was not quite like his successful, albeit shorter-lived, experience as commanding officer at the Western Front of WWI. His successors in urology at Michigan continued to build one of the finest urology programs in the world, and Cabot surely would have been astonished to see what it looked like 100 years after he first set foot in Ann Arbor as its one and only urologist. [Below: Faculty, residents, alumni, guests at Nesbit Society meeting 2019.]
We thank those who joined us for this kick off for our Urology Centennial Celebration and invite you and those who couldn’t make it this year to the conclusion in 2020, September 24-26.
Best wishes as we begin November, 2019.
David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor