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The Nesbit Era (1930-1968)

The Formative Years
The specialty of urology becomes a section of the U-M Department of Surgery

Reed M. Nesbit, MD

  • Inaugural Chief, Section of Urology, Department of Surgery, U-M Medical School (1930-1968)

In 1930, Reed Nesbit, MD, became the first chief of the Section of Urology. He presided over the section for nearly four decades at an exceptional time in the history of urology. Nesbit, who was educated at Stanford University, was recruited to the U-M Medical School by Hugh Cabot, then chair of the Department of Surgery. Under his astute leadership, the section prospered and continued to heal hundreds of thousands of adult and pediatric patients in the State of Michigan and beyond.

Nesbit made prominent contributions to pediatric urology, including the Cabot-Nesbit style single stage orchidopexy in 1931. He pioneered the method of transurethral resection of the prostate. Nesbit’s 1943 textbook “Transurethral Prostatectomy” became the standard in the United States. A respected innovator who achieved national and international recognition for this work, he developed the operation for treating Peyronie’s disease.

Nesbit also published the “Fundamentals of Urology” in 1942, a seminal textbook in the field. Over the course of his tenure, he authored more than 150 scientific papers. In 1967, he became president of the American College of Surgeons, the first urologist to hold that position.

A revered educator, Nesbit trained over 80 residents, 18 of whom became chief of urology in medical schools in the United States and abroad.

“The important scientific and clinical advancements I witnessed during my time with the department were made possible by the most creative team of urologists in the country. It’s important for us to recognize that the surgical techniques we put forth were unthinkable to some, but almost everyone emulated what we were doing at the University of Michigan.”

J. Bernard Sloan, MD

He retired from the Section of Urology and relocated to El Macero, California in 1968, where he served as lecturer of surgery and special assistant to the dean at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine.

In 1972, The Reed M. Nesbit Urologic Society, the alumni organization of the U-M Department of Urology, was established.

In 2007, the Reed M. Nesbit Professorship in Urology was established at the U-M in his honor with Edward J. McGuire, MD, serving as the first Nesbit professor. Julian Wan, MD, is the current holder, since September 2013.

Before meeting Dr. Nesbit, I did not really know why I was becoming a doctor. Dr. Nesbit helped bring me closer to the mission of patient care and opened my eyes to the joy and reward of teaching. I remember him saying, ‘I hope you will enjoy the stimulating privilege of teaching other young people in the field. It is our obligation.’

Tomohiko Koyangi, MD

Also happening in the world in 1930

  • Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States.
  • Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were gaining momentum in Germany.
  • The Great Depression was underway in the United States.
  • Modern medicine watched as blood transfusions emerged from the range of experimental medicine. Tuberculosis and polio remained devastating diseases.
  • Urology witnessed the introduction of transurethral resection surgery to treat urinary problems due to an enlarged prostate.

Also happening at Michigan Medicine

  • 1930: In just two years, U-M physicians would perform the world’s first successful lung removal.
  • 1940: U-M creates the first human genetics department in the United States/world.
  • 1950: The U-M Women’s Hospital opens its doors.
  • 1959: The U-M Burn Center is created—the first dedicated burn unit in Michigan and one of the first in the U.S.