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James Herrick, MD, discovered sickle cell anemia and identified clot formation as the cause of heart attacks.  
James Herrick, MD, discovered sickle cell anemia and identified clot formation as the cause of heart attacks. 

The history of Rush University Medical Center is rich with innovation, change and growth. The following are a few examples of how alumni, faculty and staff from Rush and its predecessors have advanced medicine over a history spanning 175 years.

March 2, 1837: Rush Medical College receives its charter two days before the city of Chicago. Founder Daniel Brainard, MD, named the school for Benjamin Rush, a physician who signed the Declaration of Independence. Rush is the first medical school in Chicago, and one of the earliest in the Midwest.

1847: David Jones Peck graduates from Rush Medical College. He is the first African-American to earn a medical degree from an American medical college.

1881: Rush faculty member Christian Fenger, MD, is the first surgeon in Chicago to perform a successful hysterectomy for carcinoma of the cervix.

1888: Rush Medical College professor of surgery Nicholas Senn, MD, is the first surgeon to detect intestinal perforation by inflation with hydrogen gas.

1892: Rush faculty member John B. Murphy, MD (Rush, class of 1879), invents the morphine (also metallic or Murphy) button for abdominal surgery.

1897: Rush Medical College professor of surgery Arthur Dean Bevan, MD (Rush, class of 1883), develops a procedure for exposing gall bladder for surgery without severing important nerves.

1898: Effa V. Davis, MD, becomes the first female faculty member at Rush Medical College, serving as assistant clinical professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology until 1904.

1903: Rush Medical College graduates its first women. The graduating class consists of nine women and 250 men and includes Ruth Tunnicliff, MD, a research scientist specializing in bacteriology and immunology. She was one of the few women engaged in medical research during the early 1900s.

1905: Rush Medical College professor of pathology Ludvig Hektoen, MD, is the first to report the experimental transmission of measles in humans.

1907: Adda Eldredge, class of 1899, and instructor at St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing, becomes the first registered nurse in Illinois after she successfully lobbies for the Nurse Practice Act. The act leads to the development of a registration process that legally certifies the quality of a nurse’s education and creates the designation “RN” for registered nurse.

1909: Anesthetist Isabella Herb, MD, becomes the first woman on the medical staff of Presbyterian Hospital. She was a leader in the field of medical education as professor of surgery (anesthesia) at Rush Medical College.

1910: Rush Medical College faculty member and cardiologist James B. Herrick, MD (Rush class of 1888), discovers sickle cell anemia. Ernest E. Irons, MD (Rush class of 1903), the intern who first brought the abnormal cells to Herrick’s attention, later becomes dean of Rush Medical College, 1924-1936.

1912: Rush alumnus and faculty member James B. Herrick, MD, is the first to identify clot formation in coronary arteries as the cause of heart attacks.

1923: Rush Medical College professor of surgery Arthur Dean Bevan, MD, is the first in the nation to administer the combination of ethylene-oxygen in Presbyterian Hospital during a surgery, aided by anesthetist Isabella Herb, MD. Less toxic for both patients and surgical staff, the innovation is quickly adopted by hospitals throughout the country.

1923-25: Rush Medical College alumnus (class of 1905) and professor of clinical medicine at Rush George Dick, MD, and his wife, pathologist Gladys Rowena Henry Dick, MD, discovered the cause of scarlet fever and developed a vaccine for the disease. At the time, scarlet fever was a leading cause of death among children.

1941: St. Luke’s Hospital recruits its first female residents, Anne Holovachka, MD, a resident in neuropsychiatry and Mary Martin, MD, a Borland Fellow in pathology.

1948: James A. Campbell, MD, joins Presbyterian Hospital as a specialist in cardiology. He establishes Chicago’s first cardiac catheterization laboratory in the Department of Medicine at Presbyterian Hospital. Campbell later becomes the first president and CEO of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.

1962-1963: William Shorey, MD, John Schneewind, MD, and Harold Paul, MD, of Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital’s Department of Surgery are the first in the country to reattach a severed hand.

1966: George M. Hass, MD, Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital chair of pathology, 1946-1975, and professor of pathology at Rush, demonstrates the role of nicotine in the hardening of arteries and the thickening of blood that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

1968: Hassan Najafi, MD, chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Thoracic Surgery, performs the first successful adult heart transplant in Chicago at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital.

1970s: Jorge O. Galante, MD, chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1972-1993, and Rush professor of orthopedics, develops sintered titanium mesh material for use in cementless hip and knee joint implants with a colleague from the University of Illinois. This mesh is now used in artificial joints, tooth implants and some reconstructive surgeries. The material allows bone to grow into it.

1982: Richard D. Penn, MD, Judith Paice, PhD, and William Gottschalk, MD, at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center achieve a medical first by implanting a computerized programmable pump into the abdomen of a patient with cancer. The pump automatically delivers painkillers into the patient’s spine.

1983: Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center installs the first hospital-based nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine in the Midwest.

1985: Rush opens the region’s first comprehensive breast cancer center. A team of oncologists, surgeons, radiation therapists and nurses work together to coordinate individualized care for each patient, producing a full range of the latest and most innovative treatment options.

1985: Rush’s first in vitro fertilization baby is delivered.

1990: Rush’s first ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer) baby is delivered.

1994: The Diagnostic Radiology/Nuclear Medicine Department at Rush, chaired by Jerry Petasnick, MD, acquires the first positron emission tomography (PET) scan machine in Chicago. The new technology allows doctors to measure the activity levels of various organs, including the brain and the heart, helping them to make better, more accurate treatment decisions.

1998: The CORE Center, the nation’s first freestanding, specialized outpatient health care facility for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, is completed. It combines the resources of Cook County Bureau of Health Services and Rush to prevent, treat and conduct research on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other related diseases that affect men, women and children throughout the metropolitan area.

1999: Rush is the first Chicago-area hospital to treat a patient with a new gene therapy for end-stage heart disease. Led by cardiovascular surgeon Robert March, MD, the therapy is meant to determine whether specific DNA can be injected into the heart to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels to skirt blocked arteries.

2001: Richard Berger, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Rush, pioneers a new minimally invasive surgical approach to hip replacement that helps patients recover more quickly and with less pain.

2002, 2006, 2010: Rush becomes the first hospital in Illinois serving adults and children to earn Magnet status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center in 2002. It repeats the honor in 2006 and 2010.

2005: Demetrius Lopes, MD, section chief of cerebrovascular neurosurgery at Rush, introduces a curative minimally invasive endovascular treatment for brain vascular malformations, increasing the treatment options to patients.

2005: Psychiatrists at Rush are the first in Chicago to use a vagus nerve stimulator — an implantable, pacemaker-like device — as a therapy to treat long-term, treatment-resistant depression in adults.

2007: Rush first in the country to use a Penumbra thrombectomy device for acute strokes.

2009: Patient records at Rush become fully electronic.

2009: The Orthopedic Building opens at Rush. It is the largest, most comprehensive orthopedic center in Illinois and is the first health care facility in Chicago to achieve Gold LEED Certification for its environmentally friendly features.

2010: The Rush University Cancer Center opens. Spanning the entire 10th floor of Rush’s Professional Building, the center provides a home for all of The Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Cancer Clinics.

2012: Rush’s newest hospital building, the Tower, opens. The 14-level building houses acute and critical care patients, as well as surgical, diagnostic and therapeutic services. The new hospital features expanded emergency services facilities including the McCormick Foundation Center for Advanced Emergency Response, which contributes an unprecedented level of preparedness to Chicago and the region in the event of immediate and widespread emergencies.

Learn more about the history of Rush.

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