ST. LOUIS -- The department of internal medicine rings in 2011 with a yearlong celebration of its centennial anniversary.
"We plan to spend the year celebrating our success as we mark the milestone of reaching our 100th birthday. It's part of Saint Louis University's history," said Adrian Di Bisceglie, M.D., chair of the department of internal medicine at Saint Louis University and holder of the Bander Chair in Internal Medicine.
"We're very proud of our heritage as the oldest university west of the Mississippi and the part our department of internal medicine plays in increasing the prestige of the University."
With about 130 full-time faculty, more than 300 staff members and about 150 residents and fellows, the department of internal medicine is the largest in the School of Medicine. It includes medical specialists from 11 divisions -- cardiology; endocrinology; gastroenterology and hepatology; general internal medicine; geriatrics; hematology and medical oncology; immunobiology; infectious diseases and immunology; nephrology; pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine; and rheumatology.
The series of celebratory events are balanced between focusing on patient care, education and research, which are the missions of the School of Medicine and by extension, its department of internal medicine, said Di Bisceglie.
"We think of it as being like a stool you sit on. You have to balance all three legs -- patient care, education and research -- otherwise the stool wobbles," he said.
A different division from the department will be highlighted every month with daily health tips on KEZK-FM 102.5 and special health literacy programs at St. Louis County Library. In addition, digital display boards across the Medical Center campus, stories on the SLUCare website and materials in the physician lounge and outside the Saint Louis University Hospital gift shop will draw special attention to the division of the month.
A special exhibit of archival materials about the department will be displayed outside the Saint Louis University Medical Center Library throughout the year.
In addition, the department will sponsor two continuing medical education events and separate
special events recognizing staff and long-time faculty members.
Funds also are being raised to endow a lectureship to honor the memory of Coy Fitch, M.D., who was chair of the department of internal medicine from 1988 to 2000. Di Bisceglie said a turning point for the department came when Fitch took the helm as department chair.
"What Dr. Fitch did was to recruit a series of young, vigorous division directors -- Dr. Bruce Bacon as director of gastroenterology; Dr. Robert Belshe as director of infectious diseases; Dr. Kevin Martin as director of nephrology; and Dr. John Morley as director of geriatrics. Dr. Fitch was able to see them for what they would become. He provided them the resources to become successful and managed to bring out their potential," Di Bisceglie said.
"Each of these leaders recruited young faculty members and by the 1990s, the department grew very rapidly and became known for its clinical and research excellence nationally and internationally.Under Dr. Fitch's leadership, the focus shifted to add depth and diversity to the strengths of Saint Louis University School of Medicine. We became known for excellence in multiple areas, not only in one or two areas."
The department has come a long way since its inception in 1911, when Charles Hugh Nielson, M.D., was appointed as the first director of the department, Di Bisceglie noted. The early department engaged physicians who had private practices in the community to teach medical school students part-time.
The department's evolution continued with the opening of the hospital that would become the School of Medicine's primary academic teaching hospital, Saint Louis University Hospital. Firmin Desloge Hospital, as it was known at the time, opened as a state-of-the art facility for patient care in 1933, across the street from SLU's Schwitalla Hall, which was a hub of medical research and teaching.
"In celebrating our 100th anniversary, we're reflecting on our past accomplishments, our current successes and our opportunities for the future," Di Bisceglie said. "This is going to be a wonderful year."
Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, infectious disease, liver disease, aging and brain disease and heart/lung disease. The school's department of internal medicine celebrates its centennial in 2011.
Directors/acting directors from the department of internal medicine are, from left: Paul Petruska, M.D., hematology and medical oncology; Kevin Martin, M.D., nephrology; Sharon Frey, M.D., infectious diseases; George Matuschak, M.D., pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine; Thomas Olsen, M.D., general internal medicine; Brent Tetri, M.D., gastroenterology and hepatology; Adrian Di Bisceglie, department chair; Terry Moore, M.D., rheumatology; Michael Lim, M.D., cardiology; and Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., immunobiology. John Morley, M.D., geriatrics and endocrinology, is not pictured.
Photo by Chad Williams