Present At The Creation
The University of Kansas School of Medicine lacked a number of standard accoutrements when it opened its doors for the first day of classes as a four-year institution on September 6, 1905.
Permanent clinical facilities on the newly acquired Goat Hill campus in Rosedale were still a year away from being ready for occupancy. A completely adequate budget was in the realm of wishful thinking. And solid support from the Kansas legislature was hardly a given.
Seeing as the formal establishment of a full-fledged Medical School had only taken place less than five months earlier at a meeting of the KU Board of Regents on April 21, these deficiencies were entirely understandable.
One thing the new School did have in enormous abundance, however, was a large corps of faculty members. Due to the circumstances surrounding the Medical School’s creation – its upper level two-year clinical program had come into being through a merger of three Kansas City-area proprietary medical schools – a whopping 125 physicians, working generally on a voluntary basis, were available to teach KU’s 162 enrolled medical students. Needless to say, the problem of overcrowded classrooms was at least one hardship that Med School administrators did not have to endure.
This surplus of educators was not without its drawbacks, though. Chief among them, at least in the estimation of the Clinical Department’s first dean, Dr. George H. Hoxie, was that a number of these inherited professors were “incompetent.”
To accomplish the necessary pruning without actually firing anybody, Hoxie and University Chancellor Frank Strong devised a Darwinian stratagem. They categorized all of the Med School’s upper level courses as electives, thereby creating an environment in which unpopular and less capable professors would fail to draw students and consequently depart.
This experiment in natural selection had its intended effect. Within a year, the faculty roster had decreased by almost 20 percent. Even more significantly, those who survived were indeed among the pedagogically and professionally fittest. Their presence in turn generated a self-perpetuating environment that attracted still more high-caliber physician-educators.
Whether measured by teaching acumen, technical ability, community and University service, scholarly renown or, more accurately, by some combination of all these key attributes, eight early Medical School faculty members stand out as being particularly noteworthy. Of these, six are considered founding members, present at the 1905 creation. They include Drs. Robert M. Schauffler, George M. Gray, Franklin E. Murphy, Ernest F. Robinson, John F. Binnie and Professor Marshall A. Barber. The other two, Drs. Peter T. Bohan and Arthur E. Hertzler, came on staff in 1908 and 1909, respectively.
Educated at some of America’s (and the world’s) best medical institutions, these physician-educators lent their well-earned reputations to the KU School of Medicine at its most critical developmental stage. One stayed as little as four years, another for almost 50. But regardless of the length of their tenures, their early presence did much to help guarantee the School’s long-term success.
In many ways, Dr. Robert McEwen Schauffler, a lifelong Kansas Citian, epitomized this noteworthy assemblage of original KU School of Medicine faculty members. Schauffler earned his undergraduate degree from Williams College in Massachusetts. In 1896, he took his MD from New York’s prestigious Columbia University Medical College and then returned to Kansas City to join a private practice that had been started by his father.
In addition to seeing patients, Schauffler also accepted a position as professor of anatomy at the Kansas City Medical College in Kansas City, Missouri. Founded in 1869, this institution was a so-called “proprietary” medical school. Schauffler soon rose to become secretary (i.e. overall director) of the Kansas City Medical College and from this vantage point, he saw that the days of these independent medical schools were numbered. “Only universities,” he came to believe, “could maintain a medical school” effectively and for the long run.
Accordingly, from 1901 on, Schauffler spent considerable time and energy trying to convince the University of Missouri-Columbia to extend its medical program from two years to four. His idea was that, through a merger with his Kansas City Medical College, MU’s medical school could teach its clinical years in the burgeoning (and patient-rich) metropolis of Kansas City. However, MU repeatedly spurned Schauffler’s offer. “The entrenched Bourbons of Central Missouri,” as he later put it, “blocked all my efforts.”
Thwarted in his endeavors to the east, another opportunity loomed in the west. In early 1905, the University of Kansas was finalizing arrangements to enlarge its own two-year Medical School. Thanks to the benefaction of Dr. Simeon Bishop Bell, who had donated cash and land worth some $100,000, KU would establish a two-year Clinical Department in Rosedale (now part of Kansas City, Kansas) and begin offering a four-year, MD-granting curriculum. (The Medical School’s Scientific Department, which provided the first two years of study, would remain in Lawrence.)
But construction of the teaching hospital that Bell’s donation had made possible would take awhile. In the meantime, KU Chancellor Frank Strong wanted to ensure that the new upper level of the University’s Medical School – where students would receive hands-on technical instruction and patient-care experience – opened its doors promptly, with the requisite number of students and faculty.
Strong and Schauffler found they had a mutuality of interests, and soon made common cause. Serving as the Kansas City Medical College’s point man, Schauffler negotiated with Strong to bring about the same kind of union he’d originally envisioned forming with the University of Missouri. Unlike with MU, these talks proved fruitful. On April 21, 1905, the KU Board of Regents agreed to the combination. The Kansas City Medical College, along with all its students and all its faculty physicians, would become part of the new University of Kansas School of Medicine. Two other proprietary medical colleges – the Medico-Chirurgical College of Kansas City, Missouri, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, based in Kansas City, Kansas – were also part of this institutional merger.
Schauffler served the KU School of Medicine as a professor of surgery from 1905 to 1912, and again in 1917. “Helping build up the medical school,” he recalled in an unpublished autobiography written in 1957, became one of “[my] principal occupation[s].”
But it was not the only one. Beyond his role as a founding father of the KU Medical School, Schauffler also performed a similar patriarchal function at Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital. In 1904, he was the first physician hired by this “hospital for little people.” Over the next 41 years, “Dr. Bob,” as he was affectionately known, served as an attending orthopedic surgeon at Children’s Mercy, devoting much of his professional life to treating, all told, some 26,000 sick and crippled children, often without charge. “It was once estimated,” reported the Kansas City Times, “that all the hours he gave freely, without personal gain, would add up to about eight years of such voluntary effort.”
By the time Schauffler died in 1958 at the age of 87, the KU Medical Center had risen to truly first-class status. As fulfilling as this outcome was to Schauffler, it seems his role in fixing the School’s location was an even greater satisfaction. “As I drive by the fine Kansas Medical Center,” he wrote, one year before his passing, “I think with pride, ‘If it had not been for me this plant would probably not have been [in Kansas City, Kansas]. It would be in Topeka or Wichita or perhaps Lawrence.’ However, I do not feel badly that no one else remembers my work. I am happy in the result.”
Another significant faculty member inherited from the Kansas City Medical College was Dr. George Morris Gray. Born in Illinois in 1856, Gray was raised in Wyandotte County, Kansas, from the age of two. He called this part of Kansas home throughout his amazing 102 years of life. Possessing two MD degrees – one from the Kansas City Medical College itself, the other from New York’s Bellevue Hospital Medical College – Gray set up his KCK medical practice in the early 1880s.
In 1887, Gray helped establish St. Margaret’s Hospital in his hometown. Initially as chief surgeon, then as chief of staff, his affiliation with this “first healing institution in Kansas City, Kansas” continued without interruption over the next 55 years. Gray also had a hand in founding Kansas City’s Medico-Chirurgical College in 1896.
Nine years later, when the tripartite merger between that school, the Kansas City Medical College – where Gray was now a faculty member – and the College of Physicians and Surgeons created the upper level Clinical Department of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Gray migrated along with the rest of his fellow physician-educators to the new entity. He was named professor of clinical surgery, a position he would hold for some 25 years. Evidence suggests he was the type of medical educator who “taught more by precept than by word of mouth.”
A “tall, spare man, with a sharp sense of humor,” Gray operated “possibly the largest surgical practice ever had in this community,” as fellow Med School professor Dr. Lewis F. Barney once estimated, and was “regarded as not only one of the greatest, but also grandest surgeons of the West.” As a surgeon, added Barney, Gray’s work was “always characterized by his interest in his fellow man, never placing his personal gain above that of the patient. His operations were never showy or boisterous, but steady, thorough and painstaking.”
Besides his teaching and private practice, Gray also found time to serve as president of the Kansas City Academy of Medicine, the Wyandotte County Medical Society and the Kansas Medical Society, plus two years as Wyandotte county physician and one term as county coroner.
Beyond his medical endeavors, Gray’s life was unusually full, even for someone who lived more than a century. He was a colonel in the US Army Reserves. As a successful banker, he headed three Kansas City-area financial institutions at one time or another, and also once led the Mercantile Club of Kansas City, Kansas (forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce). In 1906-07, he even served a four-month stint as mayor of KCK, having won election as an independent to fill the unfinished term of Democrat William W. Rose, who had been forced to resign after refusing to enforce the Kansas prohibition laws. For all of these accomplishments, Gray became known as the “first citizen” of his hometown. Until his death in 1958, he was the oldest one as well.
A far shorter lifespan was allotted to Gray’s friend and colleague Dr. Franklin Edward Murphy. Best remembered today as the father of Dr. Franklin D. Murphy, dean of the School of Medicine (1948-51) and University chancellor (1951-60), in his time the elder Murphy was a “highly respected and successful clinician” who “gained the love and respect of his fellow physicians, the medical student[s] who had the privilege of his teachings, and the patient[s] who came to him for relief.”
Born in 1866, Murphy was a second-generation Kansas City physician. His father, Dr. Hugh Charles Murphy (an Irishman by birth), got his start as a horseback-riding rural doctor in southeastern Missouri. By 1880, the family had relocated to Independence and would soon move again to Kansas City, Missouri, where Hugh Murphy established a private practice. His son Franklin would attend KC public schools and, in 1888, began pursuing his own medical career after graduating from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. One year as a working pharmacist was apparently enough, for in 1889, Franklin enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (one of the country’s top institutions) and four years later received his MD.
Dr. Murphy returned home in 1895, set up a local medical practice, and also accepted an internal medicine professorship at the Kansas City Medical College. The following year, he was named its secretary, a title he held until 1901 – at which point he turned over the reigns to Dr. Robert Schauffler and left for Europe. Over the next several years, Murphy devoted himself to an intense regimen of postgraduate education at some of the world’s leading medical schools. Among those he attended were the Universities of Göttingen, Jena and Berlin in Germany, and the University of Vienna in Austria.
Upon his return in 1905, Dr. Murphy decided to rejoin his former Kansas City Medical College comrades at the new four-year University of Kansas School of Medicine. He became a professor of internal medicine and continued teaching in this capacity for the next 28 years. In addition, Murphy rendered enormously valuable, if unsung, service to the Med School in ways that reached far beyond the classroom. According to longtime dean of the Medical School, Dr. Harry R. Wahl (1924-48), Murphy was his “father confessor,” someone to whom he could always turn for sage and unvarnished advice. Reportedly, Murphy served as a trusted advisor to KU Chancellor Ernest Lindley (1920-39) as well.
Like many of his contemporaries, Murphy’s professional activities outside the doctor’s office and the classroom were quite diverse. He was a prolific and respected contributor to top-flight medical journals, served a term as president of the Jackson County Medical Society, and was also a member of the Missouri State Board of Health. Murphy, a “stern lover of truth and professional ethics,” apparently took these volunteer positions quite seriously. At one point he “resigned from the Missouri State Board of Health because he could not countenance certain practices in the procuring of licenses which it seemed beyond his power to control.”
Murphy also cultivated his less scientific side, thanks no doubt in part to his wife Cordelia, a concert pianist and fellow Kansas Citian whom he’d met while studying in Germany. A connoisseur of fine music himself, Murphy also became an accomplished amateur photographer and served for many years as director of the nationally renowned Kansas City Art Institute.
Murphy died in 1933 at age 66, mourned by virtually everyone who knew him. “Loyalty to friends, devotion to the profession he chose for his life’s work – these were his outstanding characteristics,” said fellow Medical School physician-educator George Gray in a eulogy. Murphy’s untimely death also prevented him from seeing his son Franklin David graduate from Penn’s medical school and become the family’s third-generation physician.
The Murphys were not the only family with deep roots in the University of Kansas and its Medical School. Indeed, a fourth member of the founding professoriat was a direct descendent of one of KU’s three original faculty members. His name was Ernest F. Robinson, son of David Hamilton Robinson, who had arrived on Mount Oread in 1866 and taught Latin and Greek until his death in 1895.
Born in Lawrence in 1872, Ernest F. Robinson earned an undergraduate degree from KU and then went on to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to pursue his MD. After graduating from Penn in 1896, Dr. Robinson did hospital internships in both Boston and Philadelphia.
The outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 convinced Robinson to volunteer his medical services to the US Army on a civilian contract basis. Accordingly, he was given the rank of assistant surgeon and dispatched to the Philippines. Although this Spanish colonial possession swiftly fell into American hands, what followed was a lengthy and often bloody conflict known at the time as the “Philippine Insurrection.” Over the course of nearly three years of fighting, Robinson tended to Army casualties in the field and served as a surgeon in Manila. He also became close friends with General Frederick Funston, a fellow Kansan and KU alum whose exploits leading to the capture of Filipino “rebel” leader Emilio Aguinaldo won him considerable, albeit fleeting, fame.
Robinson returned stateside in 1901, deciding to settle in Kansas City. He accepted a position as chief surgeon for the Burlington Railroad as well as for the Kansas City Terminal Railway. (He also, apparently, had at least a nominal private practice, for sometime in the early 1900s he performed an appendectomy on his friend Funston.) Although previously unattached to any medical college, Robinson did choose to volunteer his services as professor of surgery for the new KU School of Medicine in 1905.
While his professorial tenure at the KU School of Medicine lasted only until 1909 – given up, it seems, in favor of full-time surgical work at several Kansas City-area hospitals – Dr. Robinson’s early contributions were important nonetheless. A prominent, highly respected physician, he freely lent his considerable reputation to an institution struggling to build a solid one of its own. Indeed, the Robinson family saga at KU continued with his nephew, Dr. David W. Robinson, who would devote some four decades to the Medical School as an administrator and professor of plastic surgery, ultimately becoming the namesake of the Med Center’s Robinson Building.
For all the reputational heft conferred upon the new KU School of Medicine by outstanding Kansas City-area physicians like Dr. Ernest Robinson, few of these could match the national, even international, prominence brought by Dr. John Fairbairn Binnie. Born in Stirling, Scotland, and educated at the University of Aberdeen, Binnie immigrated to the United States in 1889 as a 26-year-old, newly minted MD. Around this time, he elected to settle and establish his medical practice in Kansas City. By 1905, Binnie, a surgeon by training, was asked to become the first chairman of the Med School’s Department of Surgery. He accepted and would hold this post until his association ended in 1911.
KU was fortunate indeed to have acquired Dr. Binnie’s services when it did, for the same year he became a founding Med School faculty member, his universally popular and influential textbook, titled Manual of Operative Surgery, was published. Eventually going through seven editions, this work – according to KU School of Medicine professor and institutional historian Dr. Ralph Major – “put Kansas City on the map of surgical literature.” Moreover, declared Binnie’s friend and fellow surgeon Dr. William J. Mayo (of Mayo Clinic fame), as a medical treatise it had “no equal” and, over time, contributed mightily to the development of a unique, world-class “American School of Surgery.”
Beyond his academic work and some 30-year presence as a practicing Kansas City physician, Dr. Binnie’s career is noteworthy in a military sense as well. Following America’s 1917 entry into World War I, the British-born Binnie, despite being well into his 50s, joined the US Army Medical Corps. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel, sent to France and placed in command of the Kansas City Base Hospital Unit, No. 28. Ultimately, he rose to the rank of colonel and was named chief consulting surgeon of all American military hospital facilities in France. “He went to the front with magnificent courage,” Dr. Mayo once told the Kansas City Star, “[with] that tact and tolerance one would expect from him. The result,” he added, “has been our greater knowledge of war surgery.”
Sadly, Binnie’s wartime service seems to have taken a heavy physical toll. “He returned home,” said Mayo, “having given that which is more precious than life, his health, for the country in which he was born and [for] the country of his adoption.” Binnie lived on until 1936. He did not, however, pass away before the University of Kansas Medical School got one final chance to express its admiration “for a great surgeon,” a “learned scholar” and a “wise counselor and friend.” In 1929, it presented him a lovely illuminated scroll that read, in part: “While a member of the faculty, you were [our] chief representative in science, the pride of your colleagues, the inspiration of your students. Your labors while here are written in its archives, in the literature of the world, and in the hearts and minds of its alumni.”
Although a PhD not an MD, another early faculty member whose scientific labors eventually brought worldwide renown both to himself and to his University was bacteriology professor Marshall Albert Barber.
Raised on a farm just southeast of Emporia, in 1891 Barber took an AB in natural history from KU and would eventually earn three more academic degrees, including his doctorate (though not until 1907), from Harvard University. In the meantime, he reestablished himself on Mount Oread and, in 1894, accepted an instructorship in botany and bacteriology. Elevated to assistant, then associate professor, Barber was not only present at the creation of the University’s two-year School of Medicine in 1899, but also at its assumption of four-year status in 1905. (Barber would not, however, physically migrate from the Scientific Department, based at the Lawrence campus, to the Clinical Department in Rosedale until 1906, at which point he was promoted to full professor, made chairman of the Med School’s new Department of Bacteriology and Pathology, and named its director of clinical laboratories.)
By far the most distinctive – and scientifically significant – achievement of Marshall Barber’s Medical School career was his invention of “micropipettes.” Using these tiny implements, fashioned in University laboratories from hollow glass capillary tubes, Barber was able to isolate – then analyze, manipulate and dissect – single-celled microorganisms. By this, he proceeded to almost single-handedly revolutionize the biological sciences and, in the process, conclusively proved Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease. In time, future generations of scientists would use Barber’s pipettes and their technical derivations to make great strides in the fields of embryology (the study of embryos) and cytology (the study of cells). In addition, modern-day stem-cell research, in vitro fertilization and, for better or worse, animal and human cloning, owe their genesis to Barber and his “pipette method.”
Professor Barber’s 17-year affiliation with KU and its Medical School ended in 1911, after which he gained new international prominence as a globetrotting crusader against malaria. During World War I, he served as a major in the US Army’s Sanitary Corps, which was responsible for disease management and prevention. And in the Second World War, he advised US Secretary of War Henry Stimson on tropical diseases and also gave lectures at the Army Medical School in Washington, DC. Acclaimed as “one of the most noted malariologists in the world,” Marshall Barber passed away in 1953 at the age of 84.
Although three years shy of being considered an actual founding faculty member of the School, Dr. Peter Thomas Bohan also earned himself a considerable reputation, albeit locally, as one of the Medical School’s most beloved and longest-serving physician-educators. In fact, many students regarded him “the greatest teacher and internist in the history of the University of Kansas School of Medicine.”
Born in 1874, this Illinois native and son of Irish immigrants was educated at the University of Chicago and, in 1900, took his MD from Rush Medical College, also in the Windy City. After graduation, he remained in Chicago for a two-year internship at Alexian Brothers Hospital and then entered private practice. Ever eager to expand his knowledge and hone his skills, Bohan spent 1905-07 in Europe, taking a series of postgraduate medical courses at universities in London, Edinburgh, Berlin and Vienna. (Incidentally, to even further enhance his diagnostic abilities, during another European jaunt later in life, Bohan took a course in psychology from none other than Dr. Sigmund Freud.)
Back from Europe in 1907, Bohan decided to settle in Kansas City. “In short order,” as his biographer, Helen M. Sims, has noted, “he built himself a practice and so distinguished himself that [in 1908] he was invited to membership in the medical faculty of the University of Kansas.” Thus began his 47-year affiliation with the School – as both professor and (from 1945-55) professor emeritus of medicine – almost the entirety of which was on a strictly voluntary, unsalaried basis. “He considered it a privilege,” explained Sims, “and sincerely believed that the teachers received as much benefit from the teaching relationship as the students.” Consistently refusing even a $300 “annual remuneration,” Bohan’s “compensation was [wholly] derived from the accomplishments of physicians who heard his lectures during their student days and went on to their own careers in medicine.”
Although Bohan also served as physician-in-chief at St. Margaret’s Hospital, based in KCK, it was at KU that he apparently made his most indelible impressions. Colleagues once dubbed Bohan “our most popular and effective teacher,” one whose “clinics were always a tour de force.” Former students seem to have agreed. “You have long epitomized to me my ideal of a doctor and teacher of medicine in all of its manifestations,” one wrote to him in a representative paean. “You taught us decency and ethics and a love of medicine for medicine’s sake. You personally,” his admirer concluded, “have been responsible for more good doctors than any other man on a faculty any university has [ever] produced.”
An enduring reflection of this high esteem is the Peter T. Bohan Lectureship, initially funded by a group of Medical School alumni and given annually since 1947. This series, which brings some of the world’s most eminent physicians and scientists to the KU Medical Center campus, is still going strong in the early twenty-first century. Moreover, today’s Med Center also features the Peter T. Bohan Chair in Medicine, the Peter T. Bohan Medical Scholarships and, fittingly, its highest award for teaching excellence, the Ruth Bohan Teaching Professorship – established by his widow in order to continue her late husband’s “educational and philanthropic endeavors.”
A year after Bohan joined the faculty, he was joined by Dr. Arthur Emanuel Hertzler, who in many ways qualifies as the early institution’s most prominent professor. Perhaps best known today for his semi-autobiographical book titled The Horse and Buggy Doctor, Hertzler was described by one colleague as a “tall, angling, Lincolnesque-type with strong, but homely features, and a devastating tongue” who could “outshoot all comers with both rifles and pistols.” According to medical historian Thomas N. Bonner in his book The Kansas Doctor, “No more colorful and distinctive person ever came out of the Jayhawker state to make his mark in the great world beyond.”
Born in West Point, Iowa, and raised in the central Kansas hamlet of Moundridge (in McPherson County), Arthur Hertzler earned numerous academic degrees including two from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, a legal degree from Washburn University, and a PhD from Illinois Wesleyan. For his medical training, he attended Northwestern University and, in 1894, received his MD.
After graduation, Dr. Hertzler decided to resettle in rural Kansas. As to the particular locale, the choice was made for him when, in 1895, a tornado struck the Harvey County town of Halstead and “devastated the community.” To help the roughly 1,200 residents recover, the 25-year-old physician promptly moved there, established a medical practice and began serving patients by means of his seemingly ubiquitous horse and buggy.
Between 1899 and 1901, “Doc” Hertzler honed his professional skills through postgraduate courses at the University of Berlin. Yet for all of Europe’s cosmopolitan sophistication, and despite being offered medical professorships at several leading US institutions upon his return, Hertzler hightailed it back to Halstead. For some time, it had been his dream to build a great group-practice surgical clinic in small-town Kansas, modeled after the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. (Although not officially called the Mayo Clinic until 1914, the facility’s origins trace back to the 1880s. And incidentally, this clinic got its own start following an 1883 tornado that ravaged the Rochester community.)
Founded in 1902 (and still in thriving operation today), the multi-specialty Halstead Hospital – and later the Hertzler Clinic – quickly gained a substantial nationwide, ultimately worldwide, reputation for providing high-quality, low-cost health care. Fittingly, it soon earned the moniker of “Little Mayo Clinic of the Midwest.” It was not, however, the only public service Dr. Hertzler would render. In fact, from 1902 through 1909, he divided his time between Halstead and Kansas City, giving classes in pathology, surgery and gynecology at the Missouri-based University Medical College. In 1909, Hertzler accepted a surgery professorship at the KU School of Medicine – a position he would hold for the next 37 years.
While an enormously popular instructor, a talented surgeon and a productive author of hard-science medical texts, Hertzler achieved enduring literary fame with The Horse and Buggy Doctor. Published in 1938, it was selected as a Book-of-the-Month Club feature and sold more than 200,000 copies in its first year alone – in the midst of the Great Depression, no less. Charmingly recalling the days of house calls and “kitchen surgery,” as well as insightfully chronicling the rapid advance of medical science and education – praising what had been gained, lamenting what had been lost – Hertzler’s book “blazed like a comet across the literary sky.” Reflecting on its mass appeal, Bonner observed that it “came like the voice of an age suddenly vanished, leaving only memories and nostalgia behind.” To readers, it “brought back momentarily the less complicated world of their youth.”
By the time Dr. Arthur Hertzler died in 1946, at the age of 76, the horse-and-buggy era had, of course, long since passed. Yet fortunately for the University of Kansas School of Medicine, the selfless dedication and professional excellence – embodied and practiced by him and his fellow pioneer physician-educators – has never gone out of style.
John H. McCool
Department of History
University of Kansas