Mission and History
- To provide comprehensive surgical services for Cincinnati and the surrounding region.
- To train the next generation of surgeon leaders.
- To advance the state-of-the-art and scientific basis of the discipline of surgery.
- To provide leadership in ensuring surgical health care for all members of the Cincinnati community.
- Attract and train the medical students and residents with the greatest potential for success as surgeons, scholars and leaders.
- Celebrate our individual strengths and diversity, and support each other as we overcome our hurdles to success, all while sharing common goals of clinical excellence, scientific discovery and professional growth.
- Promote and support our residents to go on to the most highly competitive fellowships and academic positions, and to become successful leaders advancing surgical excellence.
History of the Department
The UC Department of Surgery was derived from pioneering American surgeons and the evolution of local colleges of medicine and hospitals that parallel the origins and growth of Cincinnati itself, dating as far back as 1788. The "Hopkins Invasion" of 1922 marks the birth of the contemporary Department of Surgery at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. George Heuer and a small group of surgeons from Dr. William Halsted’s department at Johns Hopkins Medical School moved from Baltimore to Cincinnati and established a full-time surgical department with a pyramid-structured general surgery residency training program to graduate highly qualified surgeons after several years of rigorous training. After the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston, the UC Department of Surgery was the second program in the country to be patterned on the Hopkins model.
Dr. George Heuer, the first Christian R. Holmes Professor of Surgery, brought Dr. Halsted’s method of surgical training to Cincinnati, along with several of Halsted’s residents including future department chairmen, Mont Reid, B. Noland Carter and Max Zinninger. He established the now routine practice of taking thorough case histories of patients and regular follow-up care. He instituted that all tissue be studied in the lab to confirm a surgeon’s diagnosis, again a now routine practice. The tradition of superior quality and surgical innovation continued under subsequent chairs of the Department.
Dr. Mont Rogers Reid (1931-1943) worked tirelessly to strengthen the relationship between the university medical school and the community. He brought attention to the Department through numerous articles in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on wound healing processes.
Dr. Max Zinninger (1943-1946) led the Department in the interim years after Dr. Reid’s untimely death. He was one of the first to complete his surgical residency at UC in 1927 under Heuer. Also known for working collaboratively with community physicians on complicated cases requiring highly specialized care, he was considered a consummate surgeon and gentleman who was held in the highest regard by the community, his students and colleagues.
Dr. B. Noland Carter (1946-1952), the third Christian R. Holmes Professor of Surgery, was recognized nationally for his research of tissue injury and burns. He developed partnerships with the military and industry investigating newer antibiotics. During Carter’s tenure, the isotope laboratory was formed to study and treat neoplasm. Dr. Charles Barrett, forefather of the Barrett Cancer Center, was recruited to lead this effort. Radioisotope and tracer studies for diagnosis were pioneered here. A vascular lab was established and the Department made great progress in cardiothoracic surgery including cardioangiography and the first perfusion carried out. Investigations were also established for lung cancer. In the early 1950’s, UC Department of Surgery was well established as one of the premier centers for study of coronary circulation and artificial circulation. One of the most notable achievements came in 1951, when Dr. James Helmsworth of the UC Department of Surgery joined cardiologist Dr. Samuel Kaplan and chemist Dr. Leland Clark to develop the world's first functional heart-lung machine, located at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Dr. William Altemeier (1952-1978), the fourth Christian R. Holmes Professor of Surgery, further expanded the Department with a focus on microbiology and intra-abdominal infections, establishing the Department as a pioneering center for surgical infectious disease. The perineal repair for rectal prolapse is named for Dr. Altemeier. Dr. Altemeier was the first to describe cancer of the proximal (hilar) bile ducts, an entity subsequently recognized and named after Klatskin. Dr. Altemeier oversaw the building of the first surgical research facility in the mid 50’s. The Shriners Burns Hospital, one of three in the nation, was built in Cincinnati due to the strong advocacy of Drs. William Altemeier, Robert Hummel, and Bruce MacMillan in the treatment of burn injuries. A strong connection made between Cincinnati and the US Army Burn Center in San Antonio, Texas, still exists today. The pediatric surgery residency training program was founded at Children’s Hospital in the late 1950’s by Dr. Lester Martin, who raised pediatric surgery to new levels and trained numerous pediatric surgeons who have become leaders in the field, including Dr. Brad Warner. Dr. Martin also pioneered and perfected the surgical technique known as the "pull-through" procedure for ulcerative colitis. Significant developments in thyroid surgery and hand surgery were pioneered by Dr. Vinton "Hoppy" Siler, who was also a great benefactor of the Department. In the mid 1960s, Dr. J. Wesley Alexander led UC’s transplant and immunology program, training many transplant fellows and conducting significant research funded for decades by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Henry Neale, a UC medical school graduate, returned to Cincinnati in 1974, following a fellowship at Duke University, and founded the plastic surgery residency program. This program has attracted and graduated plastic surgeons who are considered among the very best in the country. Dr. Neale turned over the helm of the division of plastic surgery in 2004 to Dr. John Kitzmiller, one of his former plastic surgery residents.
Dr. Josef Fischer (1978-2001), the fifth Christian R. Holmes Professor of Surgery, was responsible for significant expansion of full-time faculty in the early 1980’s, initiating or strengthening subspecialty areas including vascular, trauma and critical care, transplant, burn, plastic surgery and urology. Dr. Fischer was instrumental in transforming the former Cincinnati General Hospital from a city-county hospital into The University Hospital, a tertiary medical center and the flagship of The Health Alliance. The urology residency program again had its center at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and has since enjoyed great success and growth, as has the oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program. Physical growth was also seen with the building of the Barrett Cancer Center, a critical care tower and new operating rooms.
Dr. Jeffrey B. Matthews, the sixth Christian R. Holmes Professor and Chairman (2001-2006), oversaw unprecedented growth of full-time faculty members. Emphasis was placed on robotic-assisted surgery, telemedicine and technology. The Department was recognized nationally for its academic and training achievements and leadership in American surgery, and continued to be celebrated locally as a specialist resource for the community and a partner in an integrated health care network. Dr. Matthews' emphasis was on multidisciplinary clinical and research programs that cut across traditional department lines. Partnerships were developed with the University of Cincinnati, local industry, and the military to develop emerging technologies for improved patient care. The Center for Surgical Innovation was opened in 2006 to advance research and training in robotics, telemedicine, and telesurgery. Dr. Matthews accepted the position as Chairman of Surgery at the University of Chicago in October 2006.
Dr. Michael S. Nussbaum, Professor of Surgery and Interim Chairman (2006-2008), was Chief of Staff at the University Hospital and served as Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs in the Department of Surgery since 2003. He was a member of the UC faculty since 1986 when he completed his surgical residency training in the UC Department of Surgery. His clinical and research interests are in gastrointestinal surgery and minimally invasive approaches to general surgery. Dr. Nussbaum was part of the original team that developed the plans for what became the Center for Surgical Innovation. He is involved in outcomes-related studies involving videoscopic surgery, clinical pathway development, surgery for inflammatory bowel disease, and the surgical treatment of swallowing disorders. His longstanding commitment to excellence in patient care continued to advance the Department's mission of fostering education, research, and innovations for treating surgical patients. Dr. Nussbaum became the first Chair of Surgery at the University of Florida in Jacksonville.
Dr. Michael J. Edwards, the seventh Christian R. Holmes Professor and Chairman (2008-2019), graduated from Emory University School of Medicine, then completed his general surgery residency at the University of Louisville and a surgical oncology fellowship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. An oncologic surgeon, his clinical practice focuses on breast cancer. Dr. Edwards nurtured the development of the University of Cincinnati Institute for Military Medicine (formally established by the UC Board of Trustees in 2009), an internationally renowned program advancing the care of the acutely injured soldier and civilian. Dr. Edwards brought a principled approach to the Department with a profound commitment to teaching the discipline of surgery through the highest quality patient care, which reflects and constitutes superior surgical education. In addition to his leadership of the Department of Surgery, Dr. Edwards provided critical leadership for the successful unification of the UC College of Medicine practice plan and its integration into UC Health in 2011. In January 2019, Dr. Edwards stepped down as Chair to focus his future efforts on the international sphingolipid research program that he has built in conjunction with the department’s research team and international collaborators. He will transition to a new research-focused role in the college that will afford him this opportunity.
Dr. Jeffrey J. Sussman has been appointed Interim Chair of Surgery. Dr. Sussman is a surgical oncologist who has been a UC faculty member since 1997 and is currently Christian R. Holmes Professor and vice chair for education. He also is program director of General Surgery Residency and director of the Skin Cancer and Sarcoma Program at the UC Cancer Institute, roles he will continue while serving as Interim Chair. From 2007 until 2015 he served as chief of the department’s Section of Surgical Oncology.