Surgical Discoveries & Breakthroughs

1928: John Alexander

Dr. John Alexander starts the first thoracic surgery residency training program in the U.S. He is known for his major contributions to the treatment of tuberculosis.

1930: Frank Wilson

Cardiologist Frank Wilson develops the electrocardiogram (EKG).

1940: Frederick Coller, M.D.

Dr. Frederick Coller invents the Coller forceps, which are still used in surgery today.

1941: Cameron Haight, M.D.

Dr. Cameron Haight performs the first successful repair of congenital esophageal atresia.

1945: Ruth Moyer Waring, M.D.

Dr. Waring becomes the first female orthopaedic resident at U-M. She was the third female orthopaedic surgeon to be admitted to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

1950s: Dick Sarns

Biomedical engineer Dick Sarns and cardiologist Dr. Herbert Sloan invent the heart lung machine for use during open heart surgery.

1950: Edgar A. Kahn, M.D.

Dr. Edgar Kahn becomes one of the first neurosurgeons to introduce a contrast material into brain abscesses to follow their size and helps to pioneer early nuclear medicine scans for localizing brain tumors. He is known for the use of cortical steroid derivatives and for surgery for cranial deformities in children.

1950s: Marion (Bill) DeWeese, M.D.

Dr. Marion (Bill) DeWeese performs the first aortorenal vein bybasses for renovascular hypertension.

1952: Reed O. Dingman, M.D., D.D.S.

Dr. Reed Dingman develops several instruments unique to the performance of maxillofacial and craniofacial surgery.

1956: Charles Gardner Child III, M.D.

U-M becomes one of the first medical centers in the U.S. to perform open heart surgery on children using a heart-lung machine.

1960: Charles Gardner Child III, M.D.

First successful total correction of truncus arteriosus, a rare type of congenital heart disease, in the world.

1964: Jeremiah G. Turcotte, M.D.

Drs. Jeremiah Turcotte and Charles Gardner Child III perform the first kidney transplant in Michigan.

1970s: Lazar J. Greenfield, M.D.

Dr. Lazar Greenfield invents the Greenfield filter for the treatment of patients who are at risk for pulmonary embolism, which is the blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by a substance that has travelled from elsewhere in the body.

1970: Richard C. Schneider, M.D.

Dr. Richard Schneider develops one of the earliest pneumatic football helmets, a helmet with an inflatable inner lining that is designed to reduce head injuries.

1970s: Norman W. Thompson, M.D.

Dr. Norman Thompson develops an operation known as the Thompson Operation for MEN1, a genetic syndrome where patients develop tumors that produce high acids and result in stomach ulcers.

1975: Robert H. Bartlett, M.D.

Dr. Robert Bartlett discovers Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), and adapts the conventional heart-lung machine for newborns.

1986: Gerald O'Connor, M.D.

Dr. Gerald O'Connor helps to establish MedSport, one of the first and largest centers in the U.S. dedicated to sports medicine.

1987: William Chandler, M.D.

Dr. William Chandler becomes one of the first neurosurgeons to use intra-operative ultrasound for brain tumor and arteriovenous malformation localization.

1996: Jeffrey Punch, M.D. & John Bromberg, M.D.

Drs. Jeffrey Punch and John Bromberg perform the first successful liver transplant from a living donor.

2000: John R. Pfeifer, M.D.

Dr. John Pfeifer founds the Division of Venous Disease at U-M, the first program of its kind in the country.

2008: James Geiger, M.D.

Dr. James Geiger and Albert Shei, Ph.D. found the Medical Innovation Center (MIC) to improve health through innovative medical technology discovery and commercialization.

2012: John D. Birkmeyer, M.D. & Justin B. Dimick, M.D., M.P.H.

Drs. John Birkmeyer and Justin Dimick co-found ArborMetrix based on a clinical analytics platform they developed to enable health systems, hospitals, accountable care organizations and quality improvement collaboratives to engage physicians in optimizing clinical quality and reducing costs.  

2014: Mark Cohen, M.D.

Drs. Mark Cohen and Anna Schwendeman (Pharmaceutical Chemistry) develop the first nanoparticle drug combination to target and treat adrenal cancers, winning the first State of Michigan Biomedical Innovation Shark Tank and starting SCARAB Therapeutics.

2015: Michael Sabel, M.D.

Dr. Mike Sabel develops novel smartphone applications for breast cancer and melanoma mapping for patients at the University of Michigan.

2015: Mark Cohen, M.D.

Dr. Mark Cohen becomes the first Associate Chair in the Department of Surgery for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and establishes the first Pathway of Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the University of Michigan Medical School — the first program of its kind in the country for medical students, as well as the first Surgical Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (SIED) courses for surgery residents and surgery faculty at U-M.

2015: James Geiger, M.D.

Dr. Jim Geiger co-founds FlexDex, Inc. a company developing surgical laparoscopy tools that provide surgeons with greater dexterity and natural motion when sewing sutures.

2016: Daniel Teitelbaum, M.D.

Dr. Dan Teitelbaum, along with resident surgeons Farokh Demeri, M.D., and Meredith Barrett, M.D., develop a novel bowel-lengthening device for infants with shortened intestinal length.