Our History

Urology's history at the University of Michigan dates to the arrival of the first faculty member in 1920. It became a Section of Surgery in 1930 and a Department in 2001. More than 50 urologists, scientists and other physicians form the faculty today, offering specialized care in bladder function and incontinence, prosthetic devices, male impotence and infertility, prostate hyperplasia, urinary stones, and cancers of the prostate, bladder, kidneys and testes. The Department has special expertise in microsurgery, and houses the Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, specializing in laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures.

The origins of the specialty of urology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor begin with Dr. Hugh Cabot, an influential genitourinary surgeon from Boston who came to Ann Arbor in 1920 as Director of the Surgery Department and Dean of the Medical School. Cabot had been trained in the urologic tradition of Henry J. Bigelow and founded the genitourinary clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1910. At Michigan, Cabot developed a practice of genitourinary surgery in the Surgery Department and recruited two young men in 1925 who became stars in urology.

One was Charles Huggins, M.D., who went on to win the Nobel Prize for his work with the hormonal manipulation of prostate cancer. The other resident was Reed Nesbit, M.D., who became the first Chief of the Section of Urology in 1930 and remained as professor and chairman until his retirement in 1968. Nesbit was the first urologist to become president of the American College of Surgeons and the only other urologist to do the same was his subsequent resident at Michigan, Dr. Ralph Straffon. Nesbit remained Chief of Urology at Michigan through the formative years of modern urology. He was a great educator and innovator contributing many of his residents to the ranks of academia. His successor was Jack Lapides, M.D., trained by Nesbit and in his own right, one of the most influential figures in urology in this century.

Dr. Lapides' many contributions centered around the area of lower urinary tract function and included clean intermittent catheterization, which went against the grain of established medical practice but proved in time to be one of the most important contributions to come out of the field of genitourinary surgery. Many urologists say that if there were a Nobel Prize in urology it should have gone to Jack Lapides for his concept of clean intermittent catheterization. Lapides retired in 1984.

Edward McGuire, M.D., followed as Chief of Urology in 1983. McGuire has been one of the great contemporary voices in the fields of urinary tract infection, urodynamics, and pelvic surgery. His concepts of leak point pressure and genuine stress incontinence, have been seminal ideas in modern urology. McGuire stepped down in 1992 and H. Barton Grossman, M.D., followed McGuire, serving as interim chief until the arrival of Dr. Joseph Oesterling in 1994.

Oesterling assumed the role of Chief from 1994-1997. Urologic research grew under Oesterling and he garnered attention for his support of the nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy as the procedure of choice in the treatment of localized prostate cancer.

James Montie M.D. took over as Chief in 1997. The Section of Urology became an independent Department in 2001 and Montie became inaugural Chair of the new Department of Urology. Montie was known for his leadership in the field of urologic oncology. Montie established the Division of Health Services Research, which has grown to be the largest urologic health services research group in the world.

David Bloom, M.D., replaced Montie in March 2007 as Department Chair. Bloom was instrumental in advancing the management and understanding of numerous pediatric urologic conditions, including laparoscopic management of cryptoorchidism and the hostile bladder in spina bifida. In February 2019, Bloom stepped down as Chair and was replaced by Ganesh Palapattu, M.D.

Palapattu serves as the current Department Chair. As he starts his role as the 9th Chair of Urology, he has pledged to continue the Department's tradition of excellence in clinical care, education and research.