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History of Urology at UTMB

By Michael M. Warren, MD

The Division of Urology at the University of Texas Medical Branch has enjoyed a long and productive life. In fact, it was the first surgical subspecialty created in the Department of Surgery by Dr. Albert O. Singleton. Dr. Singleton, only the second Chairman of Surgery since its founding, recognized in 1928 the value of Urology as a separate entity in the surgical armamentarium and called upon Dr. Robert Earl Cone to develop urology as a specialty in the John Sealy Hospital.

cone Dr. Robert Earl Cone was described as a man of “slow and measured swiftness.” He never wasted effort, energy or time. He was one of the most outstanding baseball players ever to attend the University of Texas. He graduated from UTMB in 1919. He played for a time on the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. He was also expert in the game of pool and was an exceptional golfer. His game of golf was so good that after winning the annual golf tournament of the South Central Section of the American Urological Association so consistently, he was eventually asked not to compete. He wrote numerous articles on the kidney and urinary tract. He was president of the South Central Section of the American Urological Association. He remained active until his death in 1955. His family contributed funds to establish the Robert Earl Cone Professorship.

hooks Following the death of Dr. Cone in 1955, Dr. Charles A. Hooks became the acting chief of the division until 1968. He graduated from UTMB in 1935, and was on the staff since 1937. He was associated with Dr. Cone in private practice for many years. Dr. Hooks was a noted lecturer. When giving his lecture concerning carcinoma of the prostate, he would demonstrate palpation of a bowling ball to point out its hardness, just like cancer. Then he would purposely let the bowling ball roll off the table and fall on the floor. It did wake everyone up. Dr. Hooks retired in 1976 and passed away in 1993.

mcdonaldDr. Donald F. McDonald became the Chief of Urology in 1968. He joined the Division from Rochester, New York having first been on the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle. Interestingly, early in his career he worked in the research laboratory of Dr. Charles Huggins, one of the giants in urology research dealing with carcinoma of the prostate and one of the very few Nobel Lauriat recipients in the field of urology. Dr. McDonald remained the Chief of Urology until 1975.

warren_smIn 1975, Dr. Michael M. Warren became the Chief of the Division. He came to Galveston in 1971 from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. In 1975 he became the Chief of the Division and an Associate Professor as well as the Robert Earl Cone Associate Professor, all simultaneously. Dr. Warren was the Chief of Urology for 30 years, which may hold the record for the length of time in this position. He also held many other unrelated but important positions while he was the Chief. Particularly noteworthy were Director of Short Courses for Continuing Medical Education, Director of the ED, Medical Director of the TDC (all prison units), Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, Director of the first Faculty Group Medical Practice at UTMB, Physician Champion of the Epic EMR installation, and Director of Correctional Managed Care Information Technology Operations, among others. He was fond of pointing out that he had no training or experience when he started any of these projects and that he learned more from them then he gave to make them work. In fact, this was welcomed by the Urology Division, since it gave them some free time without him around. Dr. Warren was also active in national urology organizations serving in many capacities, including President of the Texas Urology Society and President of the South Central Section of the American Urological Association.

orihuela_smDr. Eduardo Orihuela became Chief of the Division in 2006. He brought a wealth of urologic knowledge, particularly in the area of genitourinary oncology. His leadership brought the Division forward, increasing faculty support and innovation in state-of-the-art urologic care, including robotic surgery. While the position of Chief of the Division is a time-consuming job, he found time to maintain an active clinical practice, research programs and teaching, including being the Program Director for the Urology residency program, one of the finest in the state and nation. He also had a significant amount of administrative duties in the Division and in the Department of Surgery where he further demonstrated his keen insight and his ability to focus on the issues under consideration to arrive at proper decision making.

WilliamsDr. Stephen B. Williams became Chief of the Division in 2018 and Associate CMO of Clear Lake in 2022. He quickly rose the ranks to Medical Director for High Value Care for UTMB Health System. Dr. Williams completed his training in the Harvard Program in Urology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital followed by a Society of Urologic Oncology fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His academic, clinical, and research expertise is in bladder cancer with focus on identifying at-risk patients to inform targeted interventions to improve outcomes. Dr. Williams has made a significant impact on urology through his seminal research in comparative effectiveness and high value-based care regarding bladder cancer treatments. He has previously been invited to present his work at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC to help guide health policy decision-making. His research was supported by the Department of Defense office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP).

The Division of Urology has always maintained state-of-the-art care. It was the first Urology department in the State of Texas to have an Extra Corporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) machine as well as the first to have the Da Vinci Robot available for regular use. Our Division has participated in the original educational experience with robotic procedures and has provided other urologists in the state with training and development in the use of this exciting treatment modality. Currently, the full spectrum of urology care is available from faculty members of the Division in a variety of geographical locations in southeast Texas.