Our History | Department of Surgery

In 1867, Willamette University established the first formal medical education program in Oregon. This was two years after the end of the Civil War and eighteen years after Oregon was admitted to the union. It would be almost six decades before a second medical school was founded in the Pacific Northwest when the University Of Washington School Of Medicine was founded in 1946. In 1878, Willamette University moved to Portland. In 1887, after an appeal to the Board of Regents at the University of Oregon in Eugene, the charter was granted that resulted in the founding of the University Of Oregon Department Of Medicine.

In the first 26 years of the University of Oregon Department Of Medicine, there were no official chairmen for the Department of Surgery. The faculty members in the Department of Surgery did the majority of their clinical work at Good Samaritan and St. Vincent Hospitals.

Dr. Kenneth Mackenzie came to Portland at the age of 23 in 1882 to practice medicine. In 1908, Dr. Mackenzie was named Professor of Surgery and was the first head of the Department of Surgery. He was proficient in general surgery, orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery. He was also the driving force behind the building of the medical school on the top of Marquam Hill, now known as "Pill Hill" to many of the local residents.

On October 23, 1935, several surgeons met at the headquarters of the American College of Surgeons in Chicago. Included in this group of 18 surgeons was Dr. Thomas Joyce. Dr. Joyce, from the University of Oregon School of Medicine, was the only surgeon from the west coast and he was there representing the Pacific Coast Surgical Association. The purpose of this meeting was to found an examining board for surgeons. Dr. Joyce was asked to serve on the Board's first examination committee. In 1941, Dr. Joyce was appointed the first true chairman of the University Of Oregon Department Of Surgery.

In 1959, Dr. J. Englebert Dunphy was recruited from the Harvard Medical School to assume the Chairman of the Department of Surgery position. He was the first chairman to have served as faculty at a medical school outside of Oregon. As of 1963, Dunphy was the only physician in American history to hold the top four positions in the field of surgery. He was President of the American College of Surgeons, the American Surgery Association, the Society of University Surgeons and Chairman of the American Board of Surgery.

In 1965, Dr. William Krippaehne was appointed as the Chairman of Surgery following Dr. Dunphy's departure to the University of California at San Francisco. Dr. Krippaehne remained as Chair for almost 20 years before dying of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Donald Trunkey, an internationally renowned trauma surgeon, brought his expertise to Oregon at the same time a state-wide trauma system was being implemented throughout the state. Dr. Trunkey was appointed the Chair of Surgery following the interim appointment of Dr. Jack R. Campbell.

Following Dr. Trunkey's decision to retire as the Chairman of Surgery, the School of Medicine initiated a nation-wide search for the next Chair of Surgery. In 2001, Dr. John G. Hunter was recruited from Emory University to fill that position. Dr. Hunter brought to OHSU both national and international recognition as of the pre-eminent minimally invasive surgeons in the country. He has published extensively in this field and is a highly sought after speaker at national and international conferences.

OHSU (previously the University Of Oregon School Of Medicine) has a strong history of clinical, educational and academic excellence. In 1939, Dr. Ralph Matson pioneered some of the first surgeries for tuberculosis patients. In 1959, Dr. Clarence Hodges performed the first renal transplant in Oregon which was the 18th renal transplant performed in the world. In the 1960's, Dr. Albert Starr, a cardiac surgeon, and Dr. Lowell Edwards, an electrical engineer collaborated to produce the Starr-Edwards heart valve for the treatment of cardiac valve disease secondary to complications from rheumatic fever. This successful surgical procedure won international acclaim and in 2007, Dr. Starr was given the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award for "the development of prosthetic atrial and mitral valves, which have prolonged the lives of millions of people with heart disease".

In the 1970s, Dr. Tom Forgarty reported to the American College of Surgeons a technique developed at OHSU that utilized the placement of a catheter with a balloon into a bile duct to remove gall stones. The Fogarty Catheter has enjoyed world-wide use in both biliary and vascular surgeries.

In 1985, the first cardiac transplant in Oregon was performed. The donor was a patient was a victim of a gunshot inflicted during the commission of a robbery. Nineteen of the first 20 cardiac transplants survived the first year after transplant. In 1988, the first pancreas and liver transplant in Oregon were performed at OHSU.

In 1988, OHSU was designated by the State Health Division as a Level I Trauma Center. In 2005, Dr. Donald Trunkey was presented the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given by the American College of Surgeons.

In 2006, Dr. Karen Deveney, Professor of Surgery and Program Director, was awarded the prestigious Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award from the ACGME. In 2007, the OHSU surgery residency was given a four-year accreditation with permission to add two categorical residents to each of the five years of the program, which made OHSU the second largest surgery residency in the country.

Also, in 2006, OHSU was certified by the American College of Surgeons as a Center for Excellence in Bariatric Surgery. In 2007, Dr. John Hunter and Dr. Blair Jobe performed the first Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic (NOTES) procedure in North America simultaneously with a group at Ohio State University.

Surgery at OHSU has been one of its major growth clinical services. In addition to the original operating rooms located in the old Multnomah County Hospital (now known as the Multnomah Pavilion), there are now 53 operating rooms located throughout University Hospital, Doernbecher Children's Hospital, the Casey Eye Institute and the OHSU Center for Health and Healing. Every year, tens of thousands of operations are performed at OHSU by surgical specialists. OHSU has become a major referral center from all over the state and from southwest Washington. The future looks bright for the OHSU Department of Surgery and for the patients and families we serve.

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