Penn Surgery

Penn Surgery - Department History

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has a rich and notable history. Founded in 1765 it is the oldest medical school in the United States. William Shippen, after obtaining an M.D degree from the University of Edinburgh and clinical training in London with the world’s foremost surgeon John Hunter became Penn’s and America’s first professor of surgery. During the Revolutionary war he served as George Washington’s surgeon general. The man considered the father of American surgery, Philip Syng Physick MD succeeded Dr. Shippen in 1805. He was renowned for developing important new instruments, treatment of fractures and the use of carbonated beverages. In a famous operation he removed 1000 bladder stones from Chief Justice John Marshall.

In 1784 the Penn founded the nation’s first teaching hospital, the Hospital of the university of Pennsylvania. Four years later the nation’s first professorship in surgery was established through a generous gift of $50,000 by Sarah Rittenhouse Barton. The John Rhea Barton Professorship in surgery was named in honor of her husband.

The Agnew Clinic painting by Thomas Eakins

D Hayes Agnew, arguably the most respected surgeon in the country, was the first incumbent of the Barton professorship. In his time he was most famous as the surgeon taking care of President Garfield when he was shot by an assassin. Now he is most well -known for his portrayal in the Agnew Clinic, an iconic1889 portrait by Thomas Eakins that has become the School’s hallmark.

Surgoens Jonathan E. Rhoads and I.S. Ravdin

Twelve surgeons have had the privilege of serving as department chairman and John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery. Several have left their mark on American surgical history with notable firsts. Two of these professors are particularly noteworthy, I.S. Ravdin MD and Jonathan Rhoads MD. Dr. Ravdin, a dominant figure in US academic surgery should be especially remembered for bringing to HUP the modern surgical residency program. Many of his residents became leaders in American surgery. Dr. Rhoads was instrumental with his trainees Stanley Dudrick in the development of total parenteral nutrition, which continues to save the lives of countless individuals who are temporarily or permanently unable to eat. Remarkably 11 of Dr. Rhoads’ residents became chairman of university departments of surgery across the US. Later Clyde Barker served for 18 years as Barton professor, the longest tenure of any surgical chairman. So far 12 of his trainees have become chairman of departments at other universities.

For 252 years Penn Surgery has honored its history of preserving the principles upon which the department and the school of medicine were founded while simultaneously setting the standards for the future of medicine. Committed to supporting the University of Pennsylvania Health System, we strive to achieve our mission: patient care service excellence, educational preeminence, new knowledge and innovation and national and international leadership.

From 209-2017 Jeffrey Drebin served as John Rhea Barton Professor and Chairman of surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his leadership the department has an executive committee comprised of Deb Rose as chief operating officer, Dr. James Mullen as vice chair of administration, Dr. Douglas Fraker as vice chair of research, Dr John Morris as vice chair of education, Dr. Steve Raper as vice chair of quality, Dr. Kim Olthoff as vice chair of faculty affairs, Dr. Joseph Serletti as vice chair of finance and Dr. Ronald Fairman as vice chair of clinical affairs. There are 11 divisions within the Department of Surgery all led by division chiefs who are leaders in their respective fields.

The vision of these leaders is to ensure that Penn Surgery is among the top academic departments of surgery in the country and the world. Fuor primary goals have been established.