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School of Medicine > Anesthesiology > History of Anesthesiology


In 1894, Dr. Simeon Bishop Bell donated 20 acres on Seminary Street in Rosedale Kansas to establish the Eleanor Taylor Bell Memorial Hospital, in honor of his late wife. The 3-story brick hospital opened in 1906 and contained 35 beds. Later the name was changed to The University of Kansas Hospital. The first anesthetic at the Eleanor Taylor Bell Memorial Hospital was given in September of 1906. At that time anesthesia was under the direction of the surgeon and administered by medical students, surgery residents and junior surgery staff.

When Dr. Orval Cunningham was appointed chief anesthetist in 1916 anesthesia took a professional role in the state of Kansas. Dr. Cunningham was a hyperbaric oxygen pioneer and invented one of the first hyperbaric tanks for therapy of hypoxia, pneumonia and hypertension. After constructing two tanks in Kansas City, Dr. Cunningham moved to Cleveland, Ohio to build the Cunningham Sanitarium. Dr. Anna Wenzel then served as chief anesthetist from 1928-1933 followed by Dr. Mervin Rumold and Dr. Francis Davis serving two consecutive years each.

In 1938, anesthesia divided into a subsection of surgery. Dr. Paul Lorhan was the first subsection department Chair and introduced safer anesthesia and better monitoring of patients. Dr. Lorhan started the first Kansas anesthesia residency program in 1938. The first three residents were women; Eleanor Grandstaff, Gretchen Guerney and Helen Kingsbury. Then in 1956, Dr. Lorhan hosted the first and only ASA annual meeting in Kansas City. Following Dr. Lorhan's reign as Chair, Dr. Evan Fredrickson acquired the position in 1959.

It wasn't until 1965 that Anesthesiology formed into a department of its own. The first department Chair was Dr. Ray Parmley. During Dr. Parmley's tenure as Chair, the nurse anesthesia training program and the inhalation therapy education program began. In 1976, Dr. Kasumi Arakawa acquired the position as department Chair. Dr. Arakawa adept at acupuncture formed the first pain management program in Kansas City. Following Dr. Arakawa's retirement, Dr. Kirk Benson acquired the position in 1994. Dr. Benson helped form the medical center's physician practice group, Kansas University Physicians, Inc. (KUPI). In 2005, Dr. Benson resigned as Chair to concentrate on his duties as Associate Dean and President of KUPI. Dr. James Kindscher acquired the position in 2005, followed by Dr. Talal Khan in 2012. During this time, the number of physicians more than doubled, the department increased CRNAs from 1 to 50 and anesthesia coverage expanded into areas outside the OR.

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Last modified: Sep 07, 2018