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. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) opened in 1874 and is the nation's first hospital to be owned and operated by a university. In 1877, a $50,000 gift from the widow of Philadelphia surgeon, John Rhea Barton, funded the oldest of endowed surgical chairs in the United States. This allowed the Surgery Department's 5th chairman, D. Hayes Agnew, to become the first John Rhea Barton Professor. Dr. Agnew, arguably the most respected surgeon in the country, 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 iconic 1889 portrait by Thomas Eakins that has become the School's hallmark.
"Dr. Agnew, arguably the most respected surgeon in the country, was most famous as the surgeon taking care of President Garfield when he was shot by an assassin."
Dr. Ronald DeMatteo is the 15th surgeon to have the privilege of serving as the John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery. Several chairmen have left their mark on American surgical history—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.