Department History

A Century of Otolaryngology The University of Texas Medical Branch - Galveston

In 1891 the flagship physician training school in the state of Texas was established in Galveston. Its ornate red masonry teaching building, designed by Nicholas Clayton was completed in the same year. The curriculum for the first class of physicians-to-be included lecture series in "Diseases of the Eye, Ear, Throat and Nose" presented by Dr. R.C. Hodges, a graduate of Detroit Medical College. In 1910, the Flexner Report cited UTMB as one of the five leading medical universities in the United States.

From the modest one-building in 1891, UTMB has grown into a leader in medical research, medical education, and patient care. "Old RED," the original class room building, is now the oldest building on the 64-acre UTMB campus located on the eastern end of Galveston Island. The four schools on campus (the school of Medicine, the school of Nursing, the Graduate School of Biomedical Services, and the School of Allied Health Sciences) are complemented by the Marine Biomedical Institute and the Institute for the Medical Humanities.

UTMB has a long and rich tradition of high quality medical education. Graduate medical training is now offered in all specialties, and extensive Continuing Medical Education program offers opportunities for a life-long continuation of education necessary for excellence in medicine. Medical research at UTMB is broad-based and intensive. Interdepartmental collaborations are common, with basic and clinical scientists working together to solve health problems.

During the time UTMB was developing from one building into a major tertiary care hospital complex, similar growth was taking place in Otolaryngology in Galveston. The original lecturer in "Diseases of the Ear, Nose and Throat," Dr. Hodges, left Galveston in 1893 to go into private practice in Houston and was replaced on the faculty by Dr. George P. Hall. Dr. Hall, who had trained at the Louisville Medical School and the Jefferson Medical College, remained in Galveston as director for Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat until 1899.

In 1900 Dr. John B. Haden joined the Galveston faculty. By this time, the first woman physician had already been graduated from the Medical School (Dr. Marie Delaondre Dietzel, 1897); a total of 18 women had attended the Medical School, and six of these (including Dr. Dietzel) had been graduated. Dr. John Haden was soon augmented by his brother, Dr. Henry Cooper Haden in 1902. Dr. Henry Haden resigned in 1907 and was replaced by Dr. Seth Mabry Morris, who was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology and Otology. Dr. Morris had been originally appointed Professor of Chemistry and Toxicology in 1891 when UTMB opened. When he decided to make a career change, he spend several summers in New York City pursuing additional specialty training to enable him to become competent in Eye and Ear. He served as a faculty member until 1951, seeing firsthand the growth and changes at UTMB during its first 60 years. An extremely versatile physician, Dr. Morris learned of Professor Roentgen's discovery in Europe, and proceeded to assemble the first x-ray machine in Texas using a hodge-podge of parts including some from an old sewing machine. He was also the owner of the first "horseless carriage" in Galveston. (1902) The Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology experience continued to grow during these early days. Records show an increase from a total surgical volume of 30 cases during 1891 to369 cases in 1920. In 1913, 40 men and 4 women were graduated from the Medical School. The top two students were women, one of them a former Russian maid who had known no English until a few years before starting school. Faculty during this time included Dr. Water P. Breath (1913-1917), Dr. Oscar Thweatt Kirksey (1917), and Dr. Dick Parker Wall (1914-1938).

In 1923 Dr. Wall was appointed Professor of Otolaryngology and Chairmen of the new department, at Dr. Morris' request. The ENT clinic at this time was in the basement of the John Sealy Hospital, and consisted of "five treatment chairs". Faculty over the next two decades included Dr. James E. Thompson, Jr. (B. A. Otology) in 1926 and Dr. Wickliff R. Curtis (B.A. Otolaryngology) in 1927.

In 1940, Dr. Wall resigned as Chairman to go into private practice, and Dr. John Matthew Roberson was appointed Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology. (Dr. Morris was by this time concentrating his efforts on ophthalmology). Dr. Robison was born in Austin, and received his M.D. from UTMB in 1920. His internship was taken in Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, and at New York City Hospital and Lying-In Hospital. He completed residencies in both ophthalmology and ophthalmology and otolaryngology at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital before returning to Galveston.

In the same year that Dr. Robison arrived in Galveston, Dr. George Street McReynolds joined the faculty, and remained active here until his retirement in 1974. He received his specialty training at the Chevalier Jackson Bronchoscopic Clinic and Temple University in Philadelphia. During his tenure here, Dr. McReynolds established a highly regarded endoscopy service and became widely known as an excellent laryngologist.

The first resident in Otolaryngology, Dr. Fred Shelton, was appointed in 1941, and later spent six years as a member of the Galveston Otolaryngology faculty.

In 1961, Dr. Robison became the first Wiess Professor of Otolaryngology. This professorship was endowed in memory of Harry Carothers Wiess, a Houston oil magnate with a life-long interest in scientific research and education. Mr. Wiess was one of the nine original founders of the Humble Oil Corporation, which was reorganized later to form the Exxon Corporation. In the same year, Otolaryngology became a division of the Department of Surgery, and Dr. McReynolds became chief.

In 1968, Otolaryngology again became an independent department, and Dr. Byron J. Bailey was appointed Chairman and Wiess Professor of Otolaryngology. During his more than 20 years at the helm, Dr. Bailey has steered the department into growth and expansion. There are now 12 full-time and six part-time, salaried faculty members whose clinical interest and expertise cover the entire broad range of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery today, including otology, head and neck surgery facial plastic and reconstructive, pediatric, and general otolaryngology. All faculty are committed to teaching and research, and to promoting individually the education and experience of each resident at UTMB. Three residents are accepted into the training program each year.

Although many outward changes have taken place in Galveston over the years, its desirability as a place to live and work has not changed since the 1891 Catalogue of the Department of Medicine of The University of Texas, Galveston, Texas stated: "As a place of residence for students Galveston is admirably situated. With a refined and hospitable people, mild and equable climate, and freedom from malaria and epidemic diseases, it would seem to afford the most favorable conditions for the performance of mental labor. The cost of living is as moderate as in other cities."