When Jay Johannigman, MD, looks up at the
natural light beaming through the skylight of the surgical amphitheater
at University Hospital (UH), he remembers legendary surgeons who
practiced right here in Cincinnati.
As he says, it's truly a place of honor that deserves preservation.
UC's Department of Surgery, in
collaboration with UH, recently completed a five-year, $250,000 project
to restore the last surgical amphitheater built in the United
States--one of only a handful remaining. Dr. Johannigman, chief of
trauma and critical care at UC, chaired the amphitheater restoration
Last month the Department of Surgery
rededicated the amphitheater to serve its traditional role--as a place
of surgical teaching and demonstration--at a ceremony attended by the
residents and faculty who will once again use the space for weekly
surgical grand rounds.
"The amphitheater restoration helps us
maintain our tie to the great traditions of surgical care at University
Hospital, the Academic Health Center and in the United States," says
James Kingsbury, executive director of UH and senior vice president of
the Health Alliance. "Together with our partners at UC, we have many
firsts and distinctions. The amphitheater helps us remember those great
traditions and accomplishments."
The project included extensive repairs to
the original skylight, a new heating and air-conditioning system and
ceiling, new windows and seat cushions, updated audiovisual equipment
and fresh paint.
Artifacts--including original anatomical
sketches by renowned medical illustrator Mary Maciel--are on permanent
display both inside the amphitheater and in the corridor outside,
emphasizing the historical significance of the space.
"When we started the renovation, we
opened the medical cabinets and found the names of all the residents
who trained here inscribed on the doors. There is a real sense of
tradition here," says Dr. Johannigman.
Surgical amphitheaters played a key role
in the training and education of surgeons. Residents frequently
gathered in these naturally lit rotundas to watch leading surgeons
In the early 20th century, patients were
still undergoing operations in their hospital ward beds--not in
specialized rooms designed for surgery. As surgeons became familiar
with demonstrating surgical anatomy on cadavers in amphitheaters, it
was only a matter of time before they began teaching operating
techniques on live patients in the same setting.
In 1915, Christian Holmes, MD, dean of
UC's College of Medicine, set out to create a Cincinnati medical center
based on the new Johns Hopkins University model: a teaching hospital
where the university and hospital worked together to serve the
community and train new surgeons.
The result was Cincinnati General Hospital, which had
four separate surgical wards and whose innovative, pavilion-style
architecture was designed to prevent the spread of disease. At the
center--literally and figuratively--was the Surgical Institute, which
included four operating rooms and the surgical amphitheater.
To commemorate the opening of the hospital, Dr. Holmes
presented Cincinnati mayor Frederick Spiegel with a gold key that would
open any lock in the building, a symbol of the hospital and
university's joint commitment to the city's sick and injured.
UC's surgical residency program was one of the first
outside Baltimore to be established by surgeons trained by William
Stewart Halsted, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University.
Today, UH and the College of Medicine provide graduate medical
education to 74 residents and fellows in nine surgical specialties.