History of IU Surgery

History of the Department of Surgery
Indiana University School of Medicine

When John Stough Bobbs performed the first recorded operation on the gallbladder, removing stones in a 31-year-old-woman who had been symptomatic for four years, in his third floor office on the south side of Indianapolis, little did he know that he was really starting the surgical tradition of what eventually became the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Department of Surgery.  Medical education in Indiana, a frontier state, was made up of multiple schools spread out around the state that were known as proprietary schools.  In 1869, Dr. Bobbs was joined by Dr. William Fletcher and together they opened the Indiana Medical College in Indianapolis.  Over the next 25 years, several of these small medical schools aligned themselves with Indiana University, which started in 1824 in Bloomington, Indiana.  In 1903, Indiana University School of Medicine officially opened in Bloomington.  Eventually, all the smaller medical colleges within the state got together and merged with Indiana University, resulting in the end of the proprietary schools.  John H. Oliver, M.D. was the first Chairman of the Department of Surgery serving from 1908 to 1912.  He was an Indiana native who completed his medical education at the State Medical College of Indiana.  He then studied in London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin before leading the first Department of Surgery.  Willis D. Gatch, M.D. was the second Chair of Surgery.  He served as the Chair from 1912 to 1947.  Dr. Gatch graduated from IU and then completed his medical training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  He was a surgical resident under William S. Halsted, M.D. before assuming the Chair of Surgery at IU.  He was a pioneer in the use of nitrous oxide in anesthesia, had interest and did research in hypotensive shock, and also worked to develop the adjustable bed which bears his name – The Gatch Bed.  Dr. Gatch also served as the Dean of Indiana University School of Medicine from 1932 to 1946.


Harris B. Shumacker, Jr. M.D. was recruited and became the third Chairman of the Department of Surgery at IU.  A native of Laurel, Mississippi, he completed his medical school training at Johns Hopkins University.  He also trained in surgery there under Dr. Alfred Blalock.  Upon completing his training, he took a job as an instructor in surgery at Yale University from 1936 to 1938 and then moved back to Hopkins University where he was an instructor from 1938 to 1941.  From 1942 to 1946, he served with the U.S. Army in the Pacific theater during World War II.  Upon return from the Pacific theater, he served as Associate Professor at Yale University from 1946 to 1948.  It was at this point that he was named the third Chairman of the Department of Surgery at IU School of Medicine, and he served in that position from 1948 to 1968.  Dr. Shumacker was a pioneer in vascular and cardiac surgery in Indiana.  He performed the first open heart surgeries in Indiana and worked to develop synthetic grafts for blood vessel and valve replacement.  He described sympathectomy for frostbite and with Harold King, M.D., was the first to describe post-splenectomy infection and sepsis.  It was under his leadership that postgraduate training in cardiothoracic surgery was started at IU.  In 1964, the first renal transplant was performed in Indiana by Dr. John Donohue and Dr. John Glover.  Dr. Shumacker was a prolific writer, authoring over 500 articles and chapters and also authored several text books.


Upon Dr. Shumacker’s retirement from IU, John E. Jesseph, M.D. was the next to serve as the Department Chair.  He was born in the state of Washington and as a teenager, joined the Marines and worked as a Japanese interpreter.  He served as an interpreter during the formal Japanese surrender on board the USS Missouri.  After his return from World War II, he completed his undergraduate and medical school training in Seattle, Washington and served as a resident in general surgery at the University of Washington under Professor Henry Harkins.  He stayed on the faculty at the University of Washington with a focus on gastrointestinal surgery, dumping syndrome, and post-vagotomy research.  From 1962 to 1965, he performed research in radiation biology at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.  He then moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he also served as Professor and Vice-Chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1965 to 1971 with Dr. Robert Zollinger.  In 1971, he was appointed the Coleman Professor and fourth Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine.  Under his leadership, the Department of Surgery expanded.  He recruited a pediatric surgeon, Jay Grosfeld, M.D. in 1972 and a transplant surgeon, Ronald Filo, M.D. in 1974 to lead those divisions.  It was under his leadership that the IU surgical training program absorbed the Marion County General Hospital’s surgical training program into one resident training program.  The surgical training base then included four hospitals on one campus.  These were the Indiana University Hospital, James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, Richard L. Roudebush Veteran Administration Hospital, and the Marion County General Hospital.  It was during his leadership that the training program expanded from four to five years.  Dr. Jesseph always maintained his ties with the military and served as the Medical Commandant of the Indiana National Guard.  He unfortunately died prematurely in 1982 at 56 years of age.


After serving as the Interim Chairman, Dr. Jay Grosfeld was named the fifth Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1985.  He completed his general surgical training in 1966 in New York City under Frank C. Spencer, M.D.  He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corp from 1966-1968 and then completed pediatric surgical training at the Columbus Children’s Hospital, Ohio from 1968 to 1970 where he trained with H. William Clatworthy, Jr., M.D.  Upon completion of pediatric surgery training, Dr. Grosfeld returned to New York for two years, at which time he was recruited by Dr. Jesseph to come to Indiana and become Professor and Director of Pediatric Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine.  He pioneered pediatric surgery in the state of Indiana and developed a neonatal surgery program.  He developed a post-graduate residency training program in pediatric surgery.  He promoted the development of pediatric anesthesiology and pathology programs at IU and expanded the operating room facilities.  As Chairman, Dr. Grosfeld continued to expand the Department of Surgery.  John Brown, M.D. performed the first pediatric heart transplant in Indiana in 1988.  Also in 1988, Peter Friend, M.D. from Cambridge University was recruited to begin a liver transplantation program and performed the first liver transplant in Indiana.  Mark Pescovitz, M.D. performed the first pancreatic transplant in Indiana in 1980.  In 1988, Karen West, M.D. performed the first ECMO procedure in Indiana and since then, over 500 cases have been performed.  In 1982, Wishard Memorial Hospital (formerly Marion County General Hospital) received Level I Adult Trauma Certification from the American College of Surgeons and this was followed two years later by Riley Hospital being verified as a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center.  In 1996, the general surgical resident training program was increased to six years to include a full year of research training.  This began to usher in a new expanded research emphasis in the Department of Surgery.  In 1988, the Indiana University surgical residency joined with the surgical residency training program of Methodist Hospital, a large private tertiary care facility about one and one-half miles from the medical center.  The IU program now graduates nine chief residents in general surgery per year.  The Department of Surgery faculty started to grow in number in the late 1990s with particular emphasis on research physician/scientists. 


In September of 2003, Dr. Grosfeld stepped down as the Chairman and Keith D. Lillemoe, M.D., originally from South Dakota and trained in general surgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was named the Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Indiana University.  He led the Department with enthusiasm and continued to provide excellent teaching to our residents and to expand the research within the department.  In the spring of 2011, Dr. Lillemoe accepted the role of Chairman of Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Robert Havlik, M.D. was named the Interim Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Indiana University.


In the summer of 2012, Gary Dunnington, M.D. was appointed the seventh Chairman of Surgery at Indiana University.  Dr. Dunnington grew up in New Castle, Indiana and attended the IU School of Medicine before holding faculty positions at the University of Arizona, the University of Southern California, and Southern Illinois University where he served for twelve years as Chairman. 


At the present time, the Department of Surgery at Indiana University spreads over five hospitals in downtown Indianapolis and three hospitals located just outside the beltway to the northeast and west.  Four are within walking distance on one campus and the fifth hospital is connected by monorail that takes ten minutes to travel back and forth.  These hospitals provide a tremendously broad range of patients and opportunities to care for and learn from.  The five downtown hospitals are Riley Children’s Hospital at IU Health, IU Health University Hospital, and IU Health Methodist Hospital all under the auspices of the IU Health System, the Richard L. Roudebush Veteran’s Administration Hospital and the new Eskenazi Health Hospital.  The three beltway hospitals are IU Health North Hospital, IU Health Saxony Hospital and IU Health West Hospital.  The Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, adjacent to the IU Health University Hospital opened in the fall of 2008. 


The Department of Surgery at IU is committed to developing excellent surgical clinicians, incorporating the skills, knowledge, and competencies essential for providing a high standard of care to the citizens of Indiana.  The Department is committed to advancing surgical scientists and their research.  Further, in our training, we aim to instill the leadership qualities that will empower our graduates to function exceptionally in all practice settings.  The Department of Surgery consists of six Divisions.  These include: General Surgery, Pediatric Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Transplantation Surgery, Cardiovascular Surgery and Peripheral Vascular Surgery.  Over the last several years, a number of faculty have been recruited with a goal to develop innovative programs including premier specialty surgical programs and basic research funding.  The Department and its Divisions have made tremendous gains in clinical excellence, research productivity, and in our educational programs.  Over the past several years, research funding from the NIH has increased seven fold within the Department.  Don Selzer, M.D. leads the Division of General Surgery, which has expertise with trauma and critical care.  Jennifer Choi, M.D. leads General Surgery Resident Education program and continues to explore and study innovative ways to continually challenge our residents to perform at the highest level.  Within general surgery, Gerardo Gomez, M.D. leads Trauma and Critical Care at Eskenazi.  Stephanie Savage, M.D. leads the Acute Care Surgery program at IU Health Methodist.  Frederick Rescorla, M.D. provides the leadership of the Division of Pediatric Surgery that leads the state in the care of infants and children.  As Director of the Transplantation Division, Jonathan Fridell, M.D. has increased the number of transplant performed including liver, kidney, pancreas, and multivisceral transplant.  The heart and lung transplant programs are coordinated at IU Health Methodist Hospital.  Rajiv Sood, M.D. leads the Division of Plastic Surgery.  The only certified Burn Center in the state is at Eskenazi Health Hospital under the direction of Rajiv Sood, M.D.  Michael Dalsing, M.D. heads the Division of Vascular Surgery.  He and his colleagues are exploring endovascular therapy for their patient.  Mark Turrentine, M.D. leads the Cardiovascular Division with its focus on pediatric congenital abnormalities.  The Department of Surgery is now composed of more than 120 faculty members and 100 residents and fellows pursuing further specialized training here at IU.  The campus is growing and building for the future.  The new ten story Critical Care Tower at Riley Children’s Hospital that includes new operating rooms and 60 patient beds is now open and fully functioning.  The future for Indiana University School of Medicine and the Department of Surgery remains bright.

Department of Surgery | 545 Barnhill Drive, Emerson Hall 203, Indianapolis, In 46202 | Phone: (317) 274-5771