History of Medicine

When Henry Ford Hospital opened in 1915, life expectancy in the United States was only 50 years for men and 53 years for women. Auto magnate Henry Ford recruited a group of well-trained physicians, primarily from Johns Hopkins University, to lead the development of five areas for the hospital: Medicine (Dr. Frank Sladen), Surgery (Dr. Roy McClure), Obstetrics and Gynecology (Dr. Jean Paul Pratt), and Pathology (Dr. Frank Hartman). This group’s commitment to patient care, medical education, and research served to expand the subspecialty areas of medicine and surgery with the development of new treatments for a host of diseases over the course of the 20th century. By the 21st century, life expectancy in the U.S. had reached 75 years for men and 80 years for women, a remarkable achievement.

Frank J. Sladen, M.D., Chair of Medicine 1915-1953

Born in 1882, Frank Sladen received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University, one of the first structured medical training programs, where he studied under the eminent Sir William Osler. Dr. Sladen became the first Physician-in-Chief of Henry Ford Hospital and the founder of the Department of Medicine.

He appointed Dr. F. Janney Smith in 1916 to develop the Division of Cardiopulmonary Medicine and in 1917 initiated the Henry Ford Hospital intern and resident training program. This program brought to Henry Ford Hospital many physicians who would rise to become experts in new specialties of medicine, including Dr. Edward Quinn in infectious diseases, Dr. Robert Ziegler in cardiac diagnostics, and Dr. Richmond Smith Jr. in endocrinology.

In the early years, Dr. Sladen served as the hospital’s expert for infectious diseases, neurology, and arthritis. The U.S. soon entered World War I, and Henry Ford Hospital became an Army hospital. Dr. Sladen worked in association with the City of Detroit Health Department in battling the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 in which more than 8,000 people in Detroit died.

After WWI, in the 1920s, Dr. Sladen appointed Dr. Daniel Foster to lead the Division of Metabolism and Dr. John Mateer to develop the Division of Gastroenterology. The Division of General Medicine was started in 1927. Dr. Sladen helped to persuade Mr. Ford to establish a nursing school, which opened in 1925 on the grounds of Henry Ford Hospital

First penicillin trials

In midst of World War II, in 1942, Henry Ford Hospital served as one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to test the use of penicillin in clinical trials. Dr. Edward Quinn, a resident in Medicine at that time, dispensed the first penicillin antibiotics to patients. Dr. Quinn along with Dr. Conrad Lam in Surgery treated about 40 medical and surgical patients with the new drug.

First multiple lead electrocardiograms

In 1944, Henry Ford Hospital became the first hospital in the U.S. to use the multiple lead electrocardiograms introduced by Dr. Robert F. Ziegler. The following year Dr. Ziegler established the cardiology residency training program, one of the first such programs in the U.S., and started the hospital’s first cardiac catheterization program.

Formalized subspecialties of medicine

During the post World War II period, 1946 to 1948, Dr. Sladen recognized the development of new medical specialties as formal divisions with the department: allergy, pulmonary (to be separate from cardiology), pediatric cardiology, rheumatology, and infectious diseases. Dr. Quinn was appointed to lead the Division of Infectious Diseases. He and his staff worked on the development of new antibiotics, such as ampicillin. Other research at that time by Department of Medicine staff included hypertension, arthritis, “sugar metabolism,” and gynecologic endocrinology.

In 1949, Dr. Sladen and Dr. McClure, as chiefs of Medicine and Surgery, visited the Ford Foundation headquarters to present their proposal for expanding Henry Ford Hospital. The 17-story Clinic Building opened five years later.

Dr. Sladen retired in 1952, but continued to practice medicine at the hospital as a consultant. After his death in 1976, the hospital library was renamed the Frank J. Sladen Library in his honor in 1978.

John G. Mateer, M.D., Chair of Medicine 1953-1962

Dr. John Mateer served as head of the Division of Gastroenterology for 40 years and as Chair of the Department of Medicine for 10 years. He was a prominent physician in the Detroit area and physician to several members of the Ford family. During his career, Dr. Mateer made important contributions to the medical literature on duodenal malignancy and studies of liver function tests correlating hepatic pathology with liver function.

Clarke M. McColl, M.D., Chair of Medicine 1963-1966

Clarke McColl dedicated the entire 48 years of his medical career to Henry Ford Hospital. In 1923 he began his residency in Gastroenterology and 40 years later was elected Chair of the Department of Medicine. Dr. McColl was responsible for the development of the four Medical Divisions within the hospital, a system designed around providing diagnostic patient examinations and continuous follow-up care in the physician/patient relationship.

Richmond W. Smith Jr., M.D., Chair of Medicine 1967-1979

As a renowned researcher and physician in endocrinology and mineral metabolism, Dr. Richmond Smith made major contributions to the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis with original research into the incidence, morphology, and causality of the disorder. In 1953 he founded the Division of Endocrinology, serving as chief until his appointment as Chair of the Department of Medicine in 1967. He also founded the establishment of the Endocrinology Laboratory at Henry Ford Hospital. Dr. Smith was intricately involved in the planning for a major grant from the Ford Foundation which was awarded in 1973. The $100 million fund was used to build the Education & Research Building on the campus of Henry Ford Hospital and to fund in perpetuity the research of the Henry Ford Medical Group.

Thomas Killip, M.D., Chair of Medicine 1979-1984

An accomplished cardiologist and researcher, Dr. Thomas Killip served as Chair of Medicine in the early 1980s. He developed the Killip Classification scheme to predict a patient’s prognosis following an acute myocardial infarction. Dr. Killip served as a member of numerous professional organizations including the American Heart Association and the American Federation for Clinical Research. He also served as Chair on the Coronary Artery Surgery Study, a randomized trial sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for the purpose of comparing medical and surgical therapy in patients with coronary artery disease.

Robert K. Nixon, M.D., Acting Chair of Medicine 1984-1985

Boy Frame, M.D., Chair of Medicine 1985-1986

Boy Frame spent 30 years of his medical career at Henry Ford Hospital during which time he earned an international reputation for his clinical research in the field of bone and mineral diseases. His authority in the field led to his designation as a member of NASA’s Life Sciences Advisory Committee to study how space flight affects bone loss in astronauts. He died unexpectedly in his first year as Chair of the Department of Medicine.

Wilmer Rutt, M.D., Acting Chair of Medicine 1986-1989

Michael Lesch, M.D., Chair of Medicine 1989-1998

Michael Lesch was Chair of Medicine at Henry Ford in the 1990s and a nationally recognized cardiologist. He contributed over 200 articles to the medical literature on various aspects of cardiovascular medicine including heart failure and studies on the structure of cardiac cathepsin D. The Lesch-Nyhan syndrome was first described by Dr. Lesch, then a medical student, and William Nyhan in 1964. The syndrome is a rare genetic disorder caused by a deficiency of HPRT, an enzyme needed to prevent the toxic buildup of uric acid in the blood.

John Popovich Jr, M.D., Chair of Medicine 1999-2010

Dr. John Popovich spent the first 35 years of his career in the Department of Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Henry Ford, joining the Pulmonary Division as a staff physician in 1980. He later served for 10 years as head of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Dr. Popovich was instrumental in the growth of the intensive care units and is credited with developing the critical care training program at Henry Ford Hospital. Dr. Popovich became Chair of Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in 1999. He also served as chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and the ABIM Foundation. During his tenure at the ABIM, he led efforts to expand the recertification program for internal medicine physicians and initiated the development of certification in hospital medicine. He was appointed to president and chief executive officer of Henry Ford Hospital in 2010, being the first physician to lead the hospital in more than 40 years, and also to chief medical officer of Henry Ford Health System in 2012.

Eric Scher, M.D., Chair of Medicine, 2011-present

Dr. Eric Scher has been part of the Department of Medicine since he came to Henry Ford Hospital for internal medicine residency training. As a staff member of the department, he has served in numerous leadership positions since 1991, including director of the medical consult service, director of the residency program, and Vice Chair of the department from 1997-2010. In 2007, Dr. Scher assumed the role of Vice President of Medical Education. He directed all medical education activities at Henry Ford Hospital which are among the largest in the nation. He also provided oversight for the education programs in Henry Ford’s suburban hospitals, which together comprise the largest osteopathic educational enterprise in the country. Dr. Scher also led a successful relationship with Wayne State School of Medicine in medical student education, resulting in a strong educational affiliation where Henry Ford assumes the full responsibility for the clinical education of nearly 100 students during their third year of medical school. In 2010 Dr. Scher served as Interim Chair of Medicine while still leading the educational programs. This was capped by a successful site visit by the Accreditation Council for the Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) which reviewed all the programs at Henry Ford Hospital.

Dr. Scher has held important committee responsibilities in ACGME and the Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine, and has been active in the American College of Physicians (ACP). At the state level, he organized and directed ACP’s educational meetings. At the national level he contributed to the ACP's CME projects and serves as a reviewer for the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Called a doctor’s doctor and a teacher’s teacher, Dr. Scher has trained hundreds of residents and won numerous teaching awards at Henry Ford. He received the ACP Michigan Chapter Laureate Award in 2007, the Parker J. Palmer Teacher Award from the ACGME in 2005, and the Governors Award from the ACP in Michigan in 2001. Dr. Scher also has done extensive community service for several decades with the volunteer physicians program at the St. Francis Cabrini Clinic in downtown Detroit.


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