Department of Otolaryngology

History of the Department

The Eye and Ear Hospital of Pittsburgh was organized by a group of civic leaders in 1895. Fifteen of those present were named directors as prescribed by the charter and 30 civic minded citizens were listed as subscribers. Dr. Joseph E. Willetts and Dr. Charles A. Wishart represented the medical staff. The new hospital was represented by Attorney William W. Wishart, Dr. Wishart's brother. A charter was granted by the city for the "purpose of establishing and maintaining a hospital, by voluntary contributions, for the medical and surgical treatment of all diseases of the eyes and ears."

Drs. Wishart and Willetts were both ophthalmologists who felt the need for a special institution where patients afflicted with problems and diseases of the eyes and ears could be examined and treated more efficiently. It would be a place where surgeons skilled in these fields could concentrate their care without traveling around lo the general hospitals in the city, which at that time was a very slow and time-consuming activity. ln his book entitled The First Seventy-Five Years : A History of The Eye and Ear Hospital of Pittsburgh, Robert W. Nickeson, M.D. stated that in the first year of operation of the hospital in 1895, a program was instituted to train resident physicians in the specialties of eye, ear, nose and throat.

The original Eye and Ear Hospital was located in a building rented from Mr. Henry Phipps at 945 Penn Avenue. Dr. Wishart proudly stated that, "this is the only institution of the kind in the state outside of Philadelphia." While the hospital was successful it only accommodated 15 patients. The directors soon recognized the need for a new building. The second Eye and Ear Hospital was located at 1945 Fifth Avenue from 1905-1934.

Shortly after the opening of the new building, negotiations were begun with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and in 1909 articles of affiliation were drawn up which provided for the members of the medical staff of the Eye and Ear Hospital to assume responsibility for instruction in ophthalmology and otolaryngology for 165 freshman and sophomore medical students thereby establishing the cooperative relationship with the School of Medicine which exists to this day. Four-month postgraduate courses for registered nurses were also instituted which set the stage for specialty nursing in these fields. 

In addition to the doctors, the board was composed of socially prominent women who lived primarily in the East End of Pittsburgh. Four physicians stood out as leaders of the Eye and Ear Hospital. These included Dr. James A. Lippincott, Dr. William W. Blair, Dr. Ewing W. Day, and Dr. Chevalier Q. Jackson. Despite the fact that most of the physicians practiced the specialty of eye and ear, nose and throat, Dr. Day limited his interests to otology. The hospital probably owes Dr. Day its present cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh since he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the University. Dr. Day also influenced the development of the career of his son, Dr. Kenneth M. Day, who also obtained a position of eminence in the field of otology and served the Eye and Ear Hospital with long years of dedication after his father's retirement.

The hospital’s professional standards continued to be maintained at a high level and it should be noted that beginning in 1919 all individuals appointed to the staff in ophthalmology were required to be certified by the American Board of Ophthalmological Examiners, the first certifying board in the United States (organized in 1917). A similar situation occurred in otolaryngology after the American Board of Otolaryngology was established in 1934.

With its expanding patient population, the third Eye and Ear Hospital was ready for occupancy in 1934, replacing the building on Fifth Avenue. This building was built in juxtaposition lo the Presbyterian Hospital which was not completed until 1938. Dr. Kenneth Day served as head of the Department of Otology for 12 years, from 1956-1968. Dr. Day, who himself was severely deaf, is credited with founding the first acoustical laboratory in a medical center in the U.S.

The popularity of the site of this specialty hospital and the enhancement of its programs once again created problems with insufficient space. In 1964, a new addition called the West Wing was completed. Construction of what was known as the Edwards-Lazear Pavilion was carried out with funds largely provided by Mrs. John M. (Martha) Lazear, a member of tl1e Board of Directors and daughter of the late Dr. Ogden Edwards, Dean of the School of Medicine (1917-1919) who had concerned himself intimately with the relationship of the Eye and Ear Hospital with the School of Medicine. Martha Lazear had been afflicted with otosclerosis and had had her hearing restored surgically by Dr. Raymond Jordan.

The American Board or Otolaryngology, which had been created in 1934, bestowed full accreditation on the residency training program in otolaryngology at the Eye and Ear Hospital under the leadership of Dr. Thomas McCullough, Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology, in 1952. Dr. Raymond Jordan, a very prominent otologic surgeon who practiced with Dr. Kenneth Day Sr. and Dr. Kenneth Day Jr., became Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology in 1961 after Dr. McCullough's retirement. Dr. Jordan, who did an excellent job of leading the department, resigned in 1972 to become Executive Director of the American Council of Otolaryngology headquartered in Washington DC. During this time, Dr. Donald Medearis, who had recently become Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, insisted that all clinical departments in the School of Medicine be directed by a full-time academic chairman. The Department of Otolaryngology was the only department without a full-time chairman. Due to the foresight and persistence of Dr. Medearis, and with the cooperation of the leadership and medical staff of the Eye and Ear Hospital, a search was initiated for its first fulltime academic chairman.

The University of Pittsburgh appointed Dr. Eugene N. Myers as Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology and, in cooperation with the Eye and Ear Hospital, Chief of the Department of Otolaryngology at the Eye and Ear Hospital. Dr. Myers was the first full-time academic faculty member in the department. Dr. Myers graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the Temple University School of Medicine, did his residency training at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear lnfirmary and was a teaching fellow at Harvard Medical School. After serving as an otolaryngologist in the United States Army in Frankfurt, Germany, Dr. Myers completed a fellowship in head and neck cancer surgery with Dr. John Conley in New York City. Dr. Myers spent the four years prior to the time that he came to the University of Pittsburgh in private practice and was a member of the clinical faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.

In his 32 years as chairman, Dr. Myers has built an internationally recognized department which now consists of 40 fulltime faculty members, a highly sought after residency training program and fellowships in four subspecialty areas. The department is consistently ranked in the top tier of otolaryngology department by U.S. News & World Report and many of its physicians are listed in The Best Doctors in America. The department ranks second in the country in dollars of research funding in otolaryngology from the National Institutes of Health.

The Eye & Ear Hospital ceased to exist as a separate entity on October 1, 1990. This was due primarily to a decrease in funding for patient care initiated by Medicare at that time. The shift from almost completely inpatient care of diseases of the eye, ear, nose and throat to outpatient care cut the funding precipitously and after a year it was clear that it was no longer possible for the Eye and Ear Hospital to continue. At this time the hospital was sold to the UHCP which is the predecessor organization of the present University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The purchase price was 10 million dollars which was transferred into a new organization called the Eye & Ear Institute.

The Eye & Ear Institute was established in 1987. The Eye & Ear Institute Board of Directors was essentially the same as the Eye and Ear Hospital with the addition of several individuals appointed by the university. The Orphan’s Court allowed the transfer of the seven million dollar endowment from the Eye and Ear Hospital to the newly formed Eye & Ear Institute. This, together with the 10 million dollar purchase price of the hospital, started the Eye & Ear Institute off with a 17 million dollar endowment. In 1987, the institute building, which had been designed to provide office space for community eye and ear physicians, was purchased by the Board of Directors of the Eye & Ear Institute to house the Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology. The additional space acquired by the purchase of the Eye & Ear Institute building provided an instant upgrade in the areas of patient care, administration and research. Prior to that, there had been insufficient laboratory space for the departments to grow their research activities. This space together with funding provided from the income generated from the endowment of the Eye & Ear Institute provided an instant jumpstart in the opportunity to recruit investigators and to provide start-up funds for pilot projects in the two disciplines. The Eye & Ear Institute also set up a grants management program so that the NIH grants acquired by the new investigators were administered through this grants office. The Eye & Ear Institute, as an entity, was sold to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for an additional 3 million dollars in 1993 bringing the endowments to a total of 20 million dollars.

The Eye & Ear Foundation became a successor organization to the Eye & Ear Institute and had a very similar Board of Directors. For many years Albert C. Muse was chairman of the Eye & Ear Foundation and provided great leadership and kept the same goals and major ambition for success of the departments and guided the Eye & Ear Foundation in the single mission of supporting research in otolaryngology and ophthalmology. Funding provided by the Eye & Ear Foundation has been a major factor in the success of the two departments in establishing and maintaining their research activities.

Obviously this type of growth could not have been done without tremendous support from a variety of institutions, including the Eye and Ear Hospital, the Eye & Ear Institute, the Eye & Ear Foundation, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Since people make the institution, special recognition should go to Mr. Stewart McClintic who for many years was President of the Board of the Eye and Ear Hospital and provided strong leadership to these developing specialties. Of interest, but not surprise, is that his mother had been one of the founding members of the original Eye and Ear Hospital. There have been three members of the Board of Directors of the Eye and Ear Hospital, Institute and Foundation who have provided incredible support over the years: Messrs. Albert C. Muse, James H. Knowles Jr. and Charles Cohen. The late Mr. Robert Frantz, who was the attorney for the Eye and Ear Hospital Board of Directors during the 1960s and 1970s, also provided great leadership and was a model of integrity, which was of great importance in an era when integrity was not necessarily valued. Dr. Joseph Novak, one of the most prominent ophthalmologists in Pittsburgh, secured funding through the Richard King Mellon Foundation which was used to begin these new departments.