Education Patient Care People

Over 130 years of rich history

The Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis is rapidly approaching its sesquicentennial as it continues its mission in academic medicine: patient care, research, training and service. The department is no stranger to excellence in each of these mission areas.

McMillan Hospital and the Oscar Johnson Institute, home of the Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology ca. 1940.

The department has flourished behind true innovators in the field – leaders like John B. Shapleigh, MD, first chair of the department, serving from 1896 to 1923.  Shapleigh established the blueprint for excellence and innovation. To succeed him was Greenfield Sluder, M.D., who is known for achievements like the Sluder’s tonsillitome, a surgical instrument that allowed doctors to remove tonsils in an outpatient setting without intubation.

Excellence would continue with physicians like Theodore E. Walsh, MD, a pioneer in modern ear surgery, and Joseph H. Ogura, MD, the father of modern head & neck surgery and the third physician in the history of the American Laryngological Association to receive three distinguished awards based on his research and other accomplishments.

The department would continue to grow both in size and reputation under the more recent leadership of John M. Fredrickson, MD, and Richard A. Chole, MD, PhD, both internationally renowned otologists.

Eliza McMillan. Courtesy of Washington University Archives.

On May 14, 1930, after almost 30 years of advancement and growth, a new facility, the McMillan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, was built and became the department’s new home. The hospital was named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. William McMillan, generous philanthropists with interests in medical causes and higher education for women. McMillan Hospital was key to providing high-quality, cutting-edge patient care, education and research. It housed the department’s largest clinic and administrative offices until recent times.

Today, the department has over more than 250 residents, fellows, faculty, and staff providing care in 13 clinical locations across the metropolitan St. Louis area. Under the current leadership of Craig A. Buchman, M.D, FACS, the department has continued its string of accomplishments as one of the largest, most clinically comprehensive and innovative otolaryngology departments in the country, ranking at or near the top of the US News Hospital rankings, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, and the most highly sought after and rigorous resident and fellow training programs in the country.

“Last year, we achieved a new high with more than 100,000 outpatient visits and more than 9,000 surgeries. We are also the #1 provider for Ear Nose and Throat care in Missouri,” said Buchman.

Since the department’s inception, excellence in clinical care, research and education have been substantial across the field. Today, the department has chosen to not rest on those laurels, but to continue its mission to improve patients’ lives by leading the advancing field of otolaryngology.