History of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
Instruction in pathology began with the opening of the Medical School in 1888.
In 1896 Frank Wesbrook became the director of the department of pathology and bacteriology. In 1913 H.E. Robertson was appointed director of the department of pathology, bacteriology, and public health and served until 1919 when the name was changed to pathology and public health, with Robertson as director until 1921.
From 1921-1949 Elexious T. Bell served as director of the department of pathology. In 1949 James R. Dawson Jr. was named chairman and served until 1970, when Robert A. Good succeeded him.
Geneticist and pathologist John Joseph Bittner was George Chase Christian Professor of Cancer Research and director of the department of pathology's division of cancer biology from 1943 until his death in 1961. Bittner made seminal contributions to breast cancer genetics research.
The department of laboratory medicine was established in 1959 with Gerald T. Evans serving as its first director. Ellis S. Benson succeeded him in 1966. Evans had envisioned creating a bridge between clinical fields and basic medical sciences. In 1973, Ellis Benson realized this vision by bringing pathology and laboratory medicine together, establishing the department of laboratory medicine and pathology.
Dr. Benson, an outstanding leader in the field of laboratory medicine, oversaw the merger of the two departments of pathology and laboratory medicine 1974 and became the first chairman of the combined department. Dr. Benson was founder and first president of the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists (ACLPS) and a recognized expert in pathology training. He was the major force in establishing this department as a research center in the United States.
Following Dr. Benson’s retirement in 1989, Dr. Leo Furcht was appointed as department head and continues to the present day. Under his leadership, departmental faculty have been instrumental in establishing the Masonic Cancer Center, the Center for Immunology, the Institute for Translational Neuroscience, and the Institute for Engineering in Medicine. Recently, Dr. Furcht championed the creation of the department’s Division of Molecular Pathology and Genomics and a specialty based anatomic pathology service at UMMC.