History of the Program
The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the predecessor of what is now Brigham and Women’s, opened in 1913 next to the recently built Harvard Medical School, which had relocated from its old location across town. With Harvey Cushing as the first Chairman of Surgery, the Brigham rapidly became a major center for academic surgery. At that time the field of surgery had not yet developed into the specialties we know today, but the Division of Urology can be said to date from the designation in 1916 of William C. Quinby as the first chief of urological surgery.
Dr. Quinby was interested in the effect of renal denervation on kidney function and as early as 1916 did research on renal transplantation in dogs. He investigated surgical techniques to correct ureteropelvic junction obstruction, emphasizing that this type of surgery should be regarded as “plastic.” He wrote about radical cystectomy for bladder cancer and the early methods of managing urine drainage after this operation. Quinby served as chief of genitourinary surgery at the Brigham until 1941 and was followed by J. Hartwell Harrison.
Harrison is best known as a member of the team that performed the first kidney transplant at the Brigham in 1954. Brigham urology was involved in treatment of hemodialysis patients before the evolution of the specialty of nephrology and other institutions sent urologists and surgeons to the Brigham to learn the techniques of transplantation and the care of dialysis patients. Harrison investigated adrenal disease and surgical methods of treatment for these conditions and was an editor of Campbell’s Urology, which was then developing as the “bible” of urology.
Ruben Gittes succeeded Harrison as Chief of Urology in 1975. He was regarded as a brilliant innovator and was involved in numerous areas of research, including partial nephrectomy, bench renal surgery, nephroscopy, oncology, stone disease and incontinence. Gittes, like Harrison, was an editor of Campbell’s Urology. While at the Brigham he started what became known as “Countway Rounds”, a weekly Saturday morning conference held at the Countway Library of Harvard Medical School, attended by urology programs throughout the city.
After Gittes left in 1987 to become head of Surgery at Scripps Clinic he was succeeded by Jerome Richie, whom Gittes had recruited to come to Boston after his residency at UCLA and time spent in Navy Service. As urology was becoming more specialized, Richie focused on oncology and was instrumental in the development of the partnership that now exists between Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Brigham. He was a prolific author and made numerous contributions to urologic oncology, particularly in the fields of testicular and prostate cancers. He laid the groundwork for the subspecialized division of urology that exists today.
Richie was followed in 2011 by Adam Kibel, who had trained at the Brigham and then Hopkins and returned to Boston after serving on the faculty at Washington University. Kibel, while a resident at the Brigham, was actively involved in research with William Kaelin at Dana Farber who won the Nobel Prize in 2019 for work on the von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein. Kibel has continued to focus on oncology, with a special interest in prostate cancer. He has continued the emphasis on sub-specialization started by Richie and has dramatically increased the number of faculty. Today the Brigham Urology Division is extraordinarily well positioned to continue the heritage of those who have gone before us, and train the next generation of women and men who will be leaders in the field.
-Dr. Michael McDonald , Senior Brigham Surgeon
Historical image of first kidney transplant