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The Department > History

The Department has combined excellence in both research and clinical service since its inception in 1910. This dual tradition has been strengthened over the years and makes the Department a bridge between the basic and clinical Departments. Indeed, the Department is considered one of the seven Basic Science Departments of the School, now strongly representing Immunology.

The Department has had eight chairs since the reorganization of the Medical School following the Flexner report in 1891.

  • Dr. Eugene Opie led the Department from 1910 to1923. Dr. Opie was a prominent experimentalist, the first to describe the pathology of diabetes mellitus and to carry out extensive analysis of the tuberculous granuloma.
  • He was followed by Dr. Leo Loeb (1923-1938). Dr. Loeb cultivated the very close association of pathology with immunology and biomedical research. He was one of the first investigators to study the relationship between self and non-self by using tissue transplantation. However, he also made important contributions in areas of endocrinology and cancer research.
  • Dr. Howard McCordock (1938-1939) an excellent anatomic pathologist and teacher, died suddenly of complications of rheumatic fever soon after assuming leadership of the Department.
  • Dr. Robert Moore (1939-1954), although having an administrative and clinical focus, helped bring the department into the contemporary era. He subsequently served as Dean of the Medical School.
  • Dr. Stanley Hartroft (1954-1961), a scientist with interests in liver disease, restored the Department's strong emphasis on basis research.
  • Dr. Paul Lacy (1961-1985) became head of Pathology in 1961. Dr. Lacey pioneered the development of procedures for isolating pancreatic islets, as well as the use of islet cell transplantation for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.
  • Dr. Emil Unanue (1985-2006), arrived from Harvard in 1985, already recognized for seminal contributions relating to antigen presentation. He established the vigorous Immunology Program, and created the integrated Department of Pathology and Immunology.
  • The torch was recently passed to Dr. Herbert (Skip) Virgin, whose own research focuses on the immune response to chronic viral infections.

We have a long and rich history of contributions to diagnostic pathology and patient care. The modern era of surgical pathology began with the arrival of Dr. Lauren V. Ackerman at Barnes Hospital in 1948. Prior to this time, anatomic pathology was divided along traditional lines; academic efforts in the pathology were based on post-mortem investigations or bench science, while surgical pathology was performed by surgeons. The appointment of Dr. Ackerman, who was not a surgeon, signaled formal recognition that surgical pathology had matured to become a bona fide clinical discipline. By the early 1960s, surgical pathology had become an integral part of the Department of Pathology. Dr. Ackerman's trainees and those who followed have propagated his influence, here and abroad, and shaped surgical pathology as a clinical discipline.