Read more about past deans of the U-M Medical School in Medicine at Michigan, Volume I, No. 2 and Vol. 2, No. 1.
- Giles Bole, 1990-1996
- Joseph Johnson III, 1985-1990
- John Gronvall, 1970-1982
- William Hubbard, 1959-1970
- Albert Carl Furstenberg, 1935-1959
- Frederick Novy, 1933-1935
- Hugh Cabot, 1921-1930
- Victor Vaughan, 1891-1921
- Alonzo Palmer, 1875-1879, 1880-1887
- Corydon Ford, 1861, 1879-1880, 1887-1891
- Moses Gunn, 1858-1859
- Silas Douglas, 1853-57, 1862-68
- Samuel Denton, 1851-1853, 1857-1858
- Abram Sager, 1850-1851, 1859-1861, 1868-1875
After more than seven years leading the University of Michigan Medical School, Dr. Lichter stepped down from the dean’s post in 2006 to become executive vice-president and chief executive officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Washington, D.C. Internationally known for his research in the treatment of breast cancer, he served as chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology from 1984-1997 and was director of the Breast Oncology Program at the Comprehensive Cancer Center until 1991. Prior to 1984, he was director of the Radiation Therapy Section of the National Cancer Institute’s Radiation Oncology Branch. While at the NCI, he was an early advocate of the lumpectomy approach to the treatment of breast cancer and conducted one of the trials that found the use of the lumpectomy and radiation therapy to be as effective as the traditional treatment of mastectomy.
There were many successes under Lichter’s leadership at Michigan, including: the introduction of a new curriculum — one of the first in the nation that puts students in patient care settings earlier and emphasizes better communication skills; recruitment and retention of stellar faculty researchers and the finest students; adoption of the first faculty bylaws in the history of the school and the establishment of events such as the annual new faculty orientation, faculty awards, new and emeritus faculty dinners, dean’s breakfasts and the dean’s lecture series; and the distribution of more scholarship funding than any public medical school in the nation — more than $8 million annually. In addition, under Lichter’s watch, more than 70 endowed professorships were established and fund raising overall increased from $18 million to $70 million per year.
Lichter earned his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1972.
Dr. Bole spent nearly his entire academic career at the University of Michigan, earning his B.S. in 1949 and his M.D. in 1953. In 1959 he joined the Medical School faculty and from 1969 to 1986 was director of the Rackham Arthritis Research Unit. In 1975, Bole became chief of the Rheumatology Division in the Department of Internal Medicine, a position he held until 1986 when he joined the Dean's Office. He served as the Medical School's associate dean for clinical affairs, then as senior associate dean and executive associate dean until 1990. In 1990 Bole was appointed interim dean of the Medical School and was formally named dean in July 1991.
The Medical School was recognized in several notable ways during Bole's tenure, receiving a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program Grant and being redesignated one of the top members of the NIH Medical Science Training Program. The School also was refunded with the largest General Clinical Research Grant provided by the National Institutes of Health. The Medical School moved up from sixteenth to ninth in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of research-intensive medical schools, and in 1996 it ranked ninth in total research funding from the NIH. Bole also oversaw the appointment of 12 department chairs, as well as the appointment of the director of the NIH General Clinical Research Center and co-directors of the Mental Health Research Institute. In 1992, the School started using a radically new curriculum, and, to better serve the students, class size was reduced from 207 to 170. Near the end of Bole's tenure as dean, the Medical School commissioned a cultural diversity audit, helping the School to critically assess itself and develop new ways of integrating the values associated with diversity into the School's culture.
Bole's leadership brought about improvement and growth in the physical plant of the Medical School and the entire University of Michigan Medical Center. Medical Science Research Building III was built, and the older Medical Science Buildings I and II were renovated and remodeled. The Medical School administration worked with the Michigan delegation in Congress to obtain funding for remodeling and reconstruction of the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center. In July 1996, Bole announced his intention to step down from the deanship and return to the faculty; he was named dean emeritus of the Medical School shortly thereafter, a position he continues to hold.
Dr. Johnson earned two degrees from Vanderbilt University - a B.A. in 1951
and an M.D. in 1954. He specialized in infectious diseases and internal medicine
and was a member of the faculty in the Department of Medicine at the Bowman
Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University.
While Johnson was dean of the U-M Medical School, there were significant changes in medical education throughout the nation, with revisions to the medical school curriculum. For example, plans were made to put more emphasis on the importance of preventive care and to improve teaching in ambulatory care. The primary thrust of curricular reform, however, was to foster habits of critical thought and independent learning from premedical work through graduation. Johnson recruited eight new department chairs, and 11 endowed or collegiate chairs were established during his tenure. Research funding from external sources more than doubled and physical resources expanded, as well.
Johnson also worked to enhance the Medical Center. He was dean when the new University Hospital and A. Alfred Taubman Center opened in 1986. Several multidisciplinary "Centers of Excellence" were designated by the Regents, including cancer and geriatrics centers. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute at U-M grew to 10 investigators, improving Michigan's strength in molecular genetics. In addition, MSRB I was opened in 1986 and MSRB II in 1989, with planning begun for MSRB III. After completing his service as dean in 1990, Johnson remained on the faculty as professor of Internal Medicine.
Dr. Gronvall was educated at the University of Minnesota, where he received his B.A. in 1953, his B.S in 1954 and his M.D. in 1956. He held an internship at Minneapolis General Hospital and went on to the University of Mississippi to become associate professor of pathology, associate dean of the Medical School, and associate director of the Medical Center. Gronvall also served as a consultant to medical divisions of the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and was frequently invited to speak on medical center administration and medical education at various national meetings.
Gronvall joined the U-M Medical School in the summer of 1968 as associate
professor of pathology and associate dean. In 1970, he was appointed dean
of the Medical School and director of the Medical Center. He became a full
professor in 1972.
Gronvall led the Medical Center through a period of growth during his tenure. With support from the federal government, enrollment at the Medical School was increased to record levels. In 1978, its biggest year, the Medical School graduated 250 new physicians. Women entered the Medical School in ever greater numbers; by 1980 the enrollment was 30 percent female. The Inteflex program was started, in which 50 select incoming freshmen could integrate their undergraduate and medical studies in a period of six years. There was new clinical emphasis on family practice and patient education. Under Gronvall's deanship, recruitment of top-level faculty increased as did involvement of faculty in patient care activities and support for research. The Medical Library moved to the new A. Alfred Taubman Medical Library on Catherine Street in 1981, and approval was granted and construction started on the Replacement Hospital Project. Gronvall also helped obtain approval for the construction of a Medical Science Research Building. His published articles included "The Medical School Curriculum," which he wrote with William Hubbard Jr. and George R. DeMuth for the Journal of Medical Education in 1970.
In 1983 Gronvall resigned to take the position of deputy chief medical director at the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Gronvall died suddenly in 1990 at age 59.
Dr. Hubbard graduated from Columbia University in 1942 and earned his M.D. at New York University in 1944. He assumed the chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in 1950, which included responsibilities in research, teaching and administration at New York University. Hubbard, who specialized in internal medicine, became part-time assistant dean at NYU, and eventually full-time dean.
Hubbard joined the University of Michigan in 1959 as professor of internal
medicine and dean of the Medical School. At age 39, he was one of the youngest
in the nation to hold such a position. He was the Medical School's first
full-time dean - without private practice and departmental administration
responsibilities - and helped redefine the role. Hubbard reorganized policy
and practices at Michigan, emphasizing the importance of translating medical
research advances into educational programs for students and practicing physicians.
He was successful in involving the entire faculty in the affairs of the school
and aimed to provide leadership that would help students and faculty work
more effectively. Hubbard also directed a $33.5 million program to remodel
existing buildings and construct new ones at the Medical School.
In 1969, the U-M Regents made Hubbard the first dean of the Medical School to also have responsibility for directing the Medical Center. The logic behind this administrative restructuring was that teaching, patient care and research are inseparable, and the chief administrator should be responsible for the intersection of hospital and academic functions. A primary objective of this new position was to increase and efficiently utilize financial support for the Medical Center's activities.
Hubbard resigned in 1970 and became vice president of the Upjohn Company. Over the course of his academic and corporate careers, he served on the executive council of the Association of American Medical Colleges and as chairman of the board of regents of the National Library of Medicine.
A Michigan native, Dr. Furstenberg showed an interest in medicine even at the young age of eight by accompanying a local physician on house calls. Later he attended the University of Michigan, earning his B.S. in 1913 and his M.D. in 1915. From 1915 to 1916 he held an internship at University Hospital, and started a practice in Ann Arbor which he kept until his retirement in 1965. Furstenberg specialized in otolaryngology, and he conducted research on the fascial planes of the neck and neurology of the ear, nose and larynx. He also studied Meniere’s disease, osteomyelitis of the skull and conductive deafness, and wrote numerous papers. During Furstenberg’s 24 year tenure as dean, his stable yet enthusiastic leadership propelled the U-M Medical School into a fully modern institution.
In 1918 Furstenberg became instructor of otolaryngology, and he moved his way up the ranks to chairman of the department in 1932. His teaching at Michigan earned him much respect and admiration. He encouraged and advised his students by telling them that if they were willing to devote their lives to it, medicine would be a better way of life than any other.
In 1935, Furstenberg was appointed dean. He proved to be an excellent leader and energetic administrator, always thinking ahead to the future of the Medical School. He made considerable effort to expand and improve the facilities, achieving great success. During his tenure as dean, the University of Michigan Medical School became the largest in the country. Classes were expanded to 200 students, and Furstenberg helped select outstanding teachers and scientists for the faculty. Since former dean Hugh Cabot did not especially promote research at the Medical School, Furstenberg helped revitalize this aspect of medical education at Michigan. Michigan became a premier medical research institution, and facilities were expanded thanks to government and private funds.
Furstenberg’s ongoing friendships with philanthropists Sebastian Kresge and Charles Stewart Mott helped facilitate their financial contributions to the Medical Center. Their substantial gifts helped establish the Kresge Research Building in 1953, the Kresge Library in 1955, the Institute of Industrial Health in 1957, the Kresge Hearing Research Institute in 1962 and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in 1969.
In addition to his other accomplishments, Furstenberg was the National Research Council subcommittee chairman, and an honorary member of the Army Medical Library. His distinguished career was recognized with many professional honors, and in 1960 he was named dean emeritus. Furstenberg was the last dean to divide his time between departmental administration, private practice and direction of the Medical School.
Dr. Furstenberg died in Ann Arbor in 1969.
Dr. Novy served as chairman of the Executive Committee and director of pre-clinical medicine at U-M before being formally appointed dean in 1933. Novy also spent an extensive amount of time studying at the University of Michigan, where he received four degrees: a B.S. in chemistry in 1886; an M.S. in 1887; a Sc.D. in 1890; and an M.D. in 1891. He went to Europe with Victor Vaughan to study in the laboratories of Pasteur and Koch, and to purchase equipment for use in a bacteriology course. Novy’s class was so successful that it became a requirement for students in the Medical School. In 1902 he became professor of bacteriology, heading the department from 1902 to 1935.
Novy was an accomplished and innovative researcher, and his work truly spanned bacteriology, protozoology, virology and immunology. He was one of the first to demonstrate anaphylatoxin, a histamine, which laid groundwork for future developments in antihistamines. He discovered one of the two organisms that cause gas gangrene, known later as Novy’s bacillus, and invented laboratory tools such as the Novy coverslip forceps and the Novy anaerobe jar.
Novy was on the Michigan Board of Health from 1897 to 1899 and, with Victor Vaughan, helped educate the public about the germ theory of disease, food poisoning, disinfection and control of communicable diseases such as diphtheria and typhoid fever. He was a member of the U.S. Commission to Study Bubonic Plague in San Francisco, California, in 1901, and treated a case of pneumonia plague in a University student. He received the honorary LL.D. degree from the University of Michigan in 1936.
Dr. Novy died August 8, 1957.
Dr. Cabot had developed a successful professional life before he came to Michigan. He completed his A.B. and M.D. degrees at Harvard University, where he was assistant professor of surgery from 1912 to 1918, and professor of surgery from 1918 to 1919. He interned in the Surgery Department of Massachusetts General Hospital, specializing in urological surgery. Cabot spent most of his time teaching and performing surgery rather than conducting research. He wrote Modern Urology in 1918 and was one of the first to suggest that urology ought to be a distinct specialty. Called visionary by some, tyrannical by others, Cabot accomplished much as dean and had a remarkable academic career. He challenged the status quo to bring change and innovation to the University of Michigan Medical School.
Seeking change and new opportunities, Cabot left conservative Boston at age 47 to join the University of Michigan as professor of surgery in 1919. He was interested in making quality health care affordable for the average citizen, and envisioned a health care system with full-time, hospital-based group practices where patients would pay according to their means. As a speaker, Cabot gave vivid, interesting lectures and he was dedicated to maintaining high standards of academic performance. Cabot’s protégés included Reed Nesbit and Nobel Prize winner Charles Huggins. He was chair of the department of surgery and head of the section of urological surgery. When Cabot was appointed dean in 1921, many faculty members had recently left the surgery department because of the structural reorganization from part-time to full-time teaching positions. This gave Cabot the opportunity to build a new department, so he hired Frederick Coller, Leroy Abbott and John Alexander, all eminent specialists. At this same time, specialties within the department were differentiated into general, orthopedic, neurosurgery, urological and thoracic sections.
Cabot also oversaw the completion and staffing of the new University Hospital on Ann Street, the East Medical Building and the Simpson Memorial Institute. Also during Cabot’s tenure, the Department of Biological Chemistry was established, and most departments had graduate-level training programs. In accordance with a resolution passed by the state legislature in 1921, Cabot effected the closing of the Homeopathic Medical College by combining it with the “regular” medical school.
Aggravating an already unstable dynamic at the Medical School was Cabot’s confrontation of the ongoing issue of part-time faculty seeing private patients. Cabot disapproved of professors who put a lot of time and attention into their private practice but neglected their teaching and hospital responsibilities. Cabot’s aforementioned economic ideology and support of a full-time faculty threatened private practitioners, who eventually aligned with the Michigan State Medical Society to formally oppose the “full-time” method at the hospital. Cabot held steadfast in his principles, but in order to assuage the unrest, the Regents requested Cabot’s resignation early in 1930. His dedication and integrity did leave a positive mark, however, as many of his innovative policies were quietly accepted by the Medical School decades later.
Dr. Cabot died August 14, 1945.
Dr. Vaughan’s education and personal qualities gave him solid preparation for assuming a leadership position as dean at the Medical School. Vaughan came from Missouri to Ann Arbor in 1874, attracted in part by the University’s excellent chemical laboratory. He earned three degrees from the University: an M.S. in 1875; a Ph.D. in chemistry, geology and biological studies in 1876; and an M.D. in 1878. Vaughan started teaching physiological chemistry in 1876 and held the positions of professor of physiological and pathological chemistry and associate professor of therapeutics and materia medica from 1883-1887.
He and Frederick Novy, M.D., ScD., spent a year at the University of Berlin in Germany studying bacteriological technique under Robert Koch. In 1887, he founded a hygiene laboratory at Michigan, and became professor of hygiene and physiological chemistry, as well as director of the laboratory. He received an honorary LL.D. degree from the University in 1900.
Vaughan’s initial research was in medical chemistry. He studied poisons, describing ptomaine poisoning and becoming such an expert toxicologist that he served as a witness in many criminal and civil trials. Vaughan recognized that “poisoned” milk was caused by bacteria and, in 1885, discovered tyrotoxicon, a poison that forms in dairy products. His research interests then broadened to the nascent field of bacteriology, and included sanitation and public health, as well. After his European tour, Vaughan returned to Michigan and instituted the first formal laboratory courses in bacteriology in the U.S. in 1889. He co-founded the Michigan State Board of Health, of which he was chairman for many years.
Although the faculty had for more than 40 years elected deans of the Medical Department, the concomitant growth of the University led to the decision that the selection of deans ought to be centralized. Beginning with Vaughan in 1891, deans were appointed by the president and the Board of Regents of the University.
Vaughan’s tenure as dean had a tremendous impact on the development and improvement of the University of Michigan Medical School. He worked diligently to recruit research-minded faculty from around the country. In the tradition of his predecessors Abram Sager, Silas Douglas and Alonzo Palmer, Vaughan valued a curriculum that combined basic science and clinical practice. Vaughan also helped raise admission requirements, instituted a longer period of instruction and emphasized the importance of having a comprehensive library.
Vaughan was agreeable, relaxed, soft-spoken and determined to improve the standards of medicine at Michigan, encouraging both students and faculty to conduct research. He was revered as a leader, teacher and researcher, and his leadership made Michigan a paragon of modern medical education. He retired emeritus from the University of Michigan in 1921.
Dr. Vaughan died in 1929.
Dr. Palmer was recruited by Michigan in 1852 as professor of anatomy. However, since there were limited funds for faculty, Moses Gunn continued to teach both anatomy and surgery. Two years later Palmer’s appointment became more active when he took Abram Sager’s place as the professor of materia medica and diseases of women and children. In 1860, Palmer became professor of pathology and practice of medicine. Like Sager, Palmer advocated the blend of basic science with clinical practice in medical education at Michigan.
Prior to his teaching career, Palmer had become distinguished as a practicing physician and administrator. He graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York in 1839. He opened a practice in Tecumseh, southwest of Ann Arbor, and kept a general practice for 10 years. Palmer was city physician in Chicago during the 1852 outbreak of cholera among northern European immigrants. There he was head of the cholera hospital, where 1,500 patients were treated that year. Palmer received wide recognition for his services in Chicago, and one of his principal works, “A Treatise on the Epidemic of Cholera” (Ann Arbor, 1885), drew on his experience there.
In addition, Palmer made numerous other contributions to the field of medicine. From 1852-59, he edited The Peninsular Journal of Medicine, and from 1872-73 he was president of the Michigan Medical Society. He served for six months as a regimental surgeon in the 2nd Michigan Regiment of Infantry during the Civil War, and is said to have dressed the first wound inflicted by the enemy at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, 1861. During the war, he was president of the American Medical Association. Alonzo Palmer’s teaching and writing had a strong influence on the almost 10,000 students he taught. He received an LL.D. from Michigan in 1881.
Dr. Palmer died in 1887.
After being expelled from the U-M Medical School for using propagandist tactics to advocate more clinical training, Dr. Ford returned to the University of Michigan in 1854 as chair of anatomy in the recently formed Department of Medicine and Surgery. Ford earned such respect and distinction in the Department that he was elected dean in 1861, and returned to the post from 1879-1880 and 1887-1891. Ford earned his M.D. from the Geneva Medical College in 1842, where he then taught anatomy from 1842-1848. He came from a family of farmers, but paralysis of one leg as a child made it impossible for him to pursue this vocation. He used a cane the rest of his life, and had he not been dealt this setback, he most likely would have followed his family’s line of work in farming.
As a surgeon and professor, Ford’s knowledge and reputation as a great lecturer drew in large numbers of students. He was highly skilled in dissecting, and had both an ability to make a clear and concise presentation of the material, and an enthusiastic demeanor. Additionally, Ford was one of the most tolerant professors when women were first admitted to the Medical School in 1870.
Aside from teaching, Ford wrote several significant works including “Questions on Anatomy, Histology, and Physiology, for the Use of Students” (last ed. Ann Arbor, 1878), “Syllabus of Lectures on Odontology, Human and Comparative (1884), and “Questions on the Structure and Development of the Human Teeth” (1885). Dr. Ford was given an LL.D. from Michigan in 1881.
After giving his last lecture in 1894, he turned wearily to an assistant and said, “My work is done.” He collapsed on his way home, and died the next morning. He was the last dean to be elected.
Dr. Gunn was elected dean for the 1858-1859 academic year, in between Silas Douglas’ two sessions. Gunn was born in New York in 1822, and in 1844 he attended the Geneva Medical College in New York. There he was mentored by professor of Anatomy Corydon Ford, who eventually succeeded him as dean at Michigan. Ford remained at Geneva to teach, but the ambitious young Gunn left for Ann Arbor after graduating in 1846. Just prior to his departure, Geneva College received a cadaver, an unclaimed body from the Auburn State Prison. Since it arrived too late to be used in class, the body was given to Gunn for teaching purposes. He brought the cadaver with him to Ann Arbor and performed a dissection in front of guests. This was the first such demonstration in Ann Arbor, and possibly all of Michigan. His series of lectures were so well attended and successful that in the fall of 1846 Gunn taught anatomy at a private medical school in Ann Arbor. Gunn and Silas Douglas started the school while waiting for a Medical Department to be created at the University of Michigan.
After the Regents made their decision to found the Medical Department, Gunn was appointed as the third faculty member at the University of Michigan. At Regent and physician Zina Pitcher’s recommendation, he was made professor of anatomy and surgery in 1849 at age 27. Gunn’s research at Michigan included an investigation of which particular tissues cause hip and shoulder joint dislocations. He worked on a method of guiding these dislocated parts back into position by gently directing the bone back through its course of escape from the socket. Gunn’s results were published in the Peninsular Medical Journal.
Though Gunn initiated a tradition of excellent anatomy instruction at Michigan, he also was interested in surgery. A capable, determined man, Gunn became professor of surgery in 1854, holding the title until 1867, when it was taken over by his long time friend and colleague Corydon Ford. Gunn served as a surgeon for 11 months in the Civil War, seeing active duty during General McClellan’s peninsular campaign. Gunn resigned from the University in 1867 after the sudden death of his son by drowning, and moved to Chicago with his family. There he became chair of surgery at Rush Medical College.
Dr. Gunn died in 1887.
Dr. Douglas moved to Michigan from his home state of New York in 1838 and began to study medicine in the office of Regent Zina Pitcher. He also worked as a physician under another Regent, the renowned Native American scholar Henry R. Schoolcraft. In 1842 he finished his medical studies at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. He moved to Ann Arbor in 1843 to practice medicine, and his enthusiasm about the field fueled contributions to the creation of a medical department at Michigan.
In 1847, Douglas signed, along with Abram Sager, the “memorial” written to the Regents requesting a Medical Department. He, Sager and Pitcher represented the first generation of scientists at the University of Michigan. Douglas came to the University of Michigan in 1844 to be an assistant in chemistry without salary. Eventually uncomfortable with this arrangement, he explained to his mentor Pitcher in 1846 that he was dissatisfied spending so much time teaching chemistry without compensation or a regular appointment. To ensure that Douglas would stay, Pitcher saw to it that he became professor of chemistry, mineralogy and geology in the Department of Literature, Science & Arts. Also in 1846, Douglas became superintendent of university buildings and grounds, overseeing the construction of several prominent buildings on campus.
In 1848, Douglas was appointed to teach pharmacy and toxicology as one of the first two faculty members in the new Medical Department. Though his official title was professor of materia medica, he kept a small lab in the medical building and gave chemical demonstrations before class. This was not uncommon, as many professors at this time did not necessarily teach in their named disciplines. They often taught extra fields, and were very knowledgeable about the natural sciences and basic chemistry. Douglas persuaded the Regents to allocate money for a chemical laboratory, which was built in 1855-1856. Because the lab was founded by Douglas, it was considered part of the Medical Department. The building’s construction was a triumph, since it was the first university building in the country built solely for chemistry.
Douglas’ service at the University ended in 1877, under unfortunate circumstances. A discrepancy in the accounts of the chemical laboratory was discovered in 1875, and assistant professor Preston Rose was accused of taking more money from students than he gave to Silas Douglas, his supervisor. Rose shifted the blame onto Douglas, and the affair became public and highly controversial. The scandal was taken before the Regents, and eventually both Rose and Douglas were dismissed. Although the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in Douglas’ favor when he contested the Regents’ verdict, he was not reappointed at the University.
Dr. Douglas died in 1890.
Dr. Denton earned his medical degree in 1825 at Castleton Medical College in Vermont. He was a successful physician, with an unparalleled dedication to patients. Denton was influential with the Board of Regents, of which he was one of the inaugural members in 1837. He was politically active, serving as a senator in the Michigan legislature from 1845-48. Denton had been trained by Zina Pitcher, and became the professor of physics in the University of Michigan Medical Department when it opened in 1850. His rich professional experience and medical training were an asset in the Medical School’s formative years.
Dr. Denton died in 1860.
Dr. Sager came to the University of Michigan in 1842 for an unsalaried position teaching botany and zoology. His position became a regular appointment in 1847, but being a medical doctor, he was eager to establish a formal medical department at the University. At this time, the state of Michigan faced economic struggles and the University was no different. In fact, U-M was striving to exist despite financial problems. As a result, the Regents had difficulty mobilizing the 1837 University Act to found a Medical Department. Regent and physician Zina Pitcher encouraged Sager, Silas Douglas and others to address the Board of Regents concerning this matter. In 1847 they did just that, pointing out that at least 70 Michigan residents had been forced to leave the state for medical education. Sager’s efforts helped facilitate the Regents’ 1848 decision to establish the Department. Sager’s subsequent appointment as professor of theory and practice of medicine is regarded as one of the founding acts of the Medical School.
Besides being instrumental in the formation of the Medical Department, Sager influenced medicine at Michigan with his enthusiasm for natural science. He graduated from Castleton Medical College in 1835 with familiarity in botany, zoology and geology. From 1837-40, he was chief in charge of the Botanical and Zoological Department in the Michigan State Geological Survey. As a teacher, he is said to have come to class with a frog in his pocket, insects fastened to his hat, and a snake that managed to escape into the classroom. His vast collection of 1,200 species and 12,000 specimens helped found the University’s Herbarium, and Sager’s ardent interest in natural science helped forge an important bridge between basic and applied sciences in medical education at Michigan.
Sager’s clinical expertise also contributed to the University’s Medical Department. He practiced in Detroit and then Jackson, performing what was probably the first Cesarean section in Michigan in 1869. He was a modest man, said to have a kindly manner with the sick. After his initial appointment at the University of Michigan, Sager became professor of obstetrics in 1850 and the chair of diseases of women and children from 1854-1860. In 1875, he retired after thirty-three years of service at the University. His resignation was in part due to the formation of the Homeopathic Department, which he strongly opposed. Sager’s legacy to the Medical School is not only in his service as the first dean, but also the example he set as a fine physician and major proponent of the school’s establishment.
Dr. Sager died August 6, 1877.