THE DEPARTMENT OF DERMATOLOGY AND SYPHILOLOGY
COURSES in dermatology and syphilology appeared in the curriculum of the Department of Medicine and Surgery in 1890. At that time Dr. William Fleming Breakey ('59m), who had previously been Preceptor of Surgery and Associate Demonstrator of Anatomy, was appointed Lecturer on Dermatology. Dr. Breakey held the position until 1905, at which time he was made Professor of Dermatology and Syphilology. He retained this professorship until he retired in 1912. It may be assumed that previous to 1890 any cutaneous problems which presented themselves were taught in one of the other major departments, presumably in the Department of Internal Medicine.
Dr. Breakey was born in Bethel County, New York, in 1835. After his graduation from the Department of Medicine and Surgery he practiced for a short time at Whitmore Lake. He served with distinction as Assistant Surgeon with the Sixteenth Michigan Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War and while he was in service suffered a serious bullet wound in his left thigh. This wound produced a chronic infection from which he suffered throughout the rest of his life.
A lifelong member of the local medical society, Breakey was honored by being made president of the Michigan State Medical Society in 1903. He was also honored by membership in the American Dermatological Association, to which he was elected in 1902.
Dr. Breakey was a man of delightful personality, whose graciousness and lovable qualities endeared him to all of his medical colleagues. During the seven years of his professorship the department made commendable progress, and in 1912, when he retired because of ill-health, the Department of Dermatology and Syphilology at the University of Michigan was one of the few independent departments of dermatology and syphilology in medical schools in the United States.
After his retirement Breakey lived in Ann Arbor for an additional three years. He died in February, 1915, at the age of eighty. He is remembered as a loyal alumnus and a pioneer in a new field of medical practice.
In 1912, following Breakey's retirement, the professorship of dermatology and syphilology was filled by Udo Julius Wile (Columbia '04, M.D. Johns Hopkins '07).
Immediately after he had obtained his medical degree Dr. Wile had served as an intern in the Charité Hospital of Berlin for one year and had pursued graduate studies in dermatology and syphilology during the next eighteen months at the universities of Bern, Paris, and Berlin. At that time he also became a student of Professor Paul G. Unna, of Hamburg, in whose home he lived for several months. Upon his return to the United States he practiced in New York City until, at the age of thirty, he was appointed to a chair in the University. He began active service in September, 1912.
Owing to the cordial support of his colleagues and of the deans under whom he has served, Dr. Wile has been enabled to build upon Dr. Breakey's foundation one of the most active university clinics in dermatology and syphilology in the country.
Through the year 1937 twenty-seven Page 831men had graduated from the service of dermatology of the department. Of this group several have reached national and international distinction. The first assistant of the department, Dr. John Hinchman Stokes ('08, '12m), after having established the syphilis and dermatology departments at the Mayo clinic, became Duhring professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, a position which he now holds. Dr. Stokes is an outstanding syphilologist and has achieved wide distinction, not only from the point of view of effective practice, but also from the point of view of public health. He is a member of the American Dermatological Association and in 1936 was elected its president.
Dr. Francis E. Senear ('12, '14m) has become a dermatosyphilologist of great distinction. He is professor of dermatology and syphilology at the University of Illinois Medical School and is in active practice in Chicago. Both Dr. Senear and Dr. Stokes have established schools of their own, properly trained graduates of which have already attained national reputations. Senear is a member of the American Dermatological Association and has been chairman of the Section of Dermatology and Syphilology of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Joseph Alexander Elliott (Southern University '10, Michigan '14m) was the third member of Dr. Wile's staff. He proved himself an excellent teacher, and during Wile's absence for military service during World War I, Elliott, as Acting Professor, carried the teaching and other responsibilities of the department with admirable executive ability. Dr. Elliott has been elected a member of the American Dermatological Association.
Dr. Lyle Boyle Kingery ('14, '16m), now professor of dermatology and syphilology at the University of Oregon, was the first member of the staff in the dermatology and syphilology service to remain for the full period of four years and also the first to have reached professorial rank in the University. He is an admirable teacher and, in spite of a very heavy practice, has maintained his interest in scientific investigation. He has developed a strong department at his university and is considered one of the distinguished graduates of the department.
Kingery was followed by Dr. Harther Lewis Keim ('15, '17m, M.S. '23), who was with the department nine years and who also reached professorial rank. In addition to his service in the department and his contributions to the research and literature in this subject, Keim spent a year at the Union Pekin Medical College, China, as an exchange professor. Upon his return he established himself in practice in Detroit.
Dr. Carroll Spaulding Wright ('17, '19m), the sixth graduate of the department, was fortunate in securing Professor J. F. Schamburg of Philadelphia as his associate. Wright became assistant professor and subsequently associate professor in the Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected professor of dermatology and syphilology at Temple University Medical School.
The next man after Dr. Wright to achieve professorial rank was Dr. George H. Belote ('23m, M.S. '27). Belote entered the department in 1923, served successively as intern, resident, and instructor, and was appointed Assistant Professor in the department in 1928. In 1930 he was promoted to Associate Professor. He died in 1941. He was an admirable teacher and an excellent administrator, and he made signal contributions to the literature.
Among the other staff members who remained during the full period of internship and graduated are many who Page 832have university associations and from whom it is expected and hoped that more will be heard.
The Department of Dermatology and Syphilology staff had in 1940, in addition to Wile, one associate professor, two instructors, a research assistant, two assistant residents, and two interns.
In the earlier days, the department was housed in a section of the hospital, but in 1918, upon Wile's recommendation, a separate building, affording 4,166 square feet of floor space, with room for twenty-five beds, was erected at a cost of $7,445. The building was torn down in 1932, after the department was accommodated in the new hospital. Through the cordial co-operation of the University Hospital group, the department has adequate bed facilities and not infrequently has as many as sixty patients in the hospital at one time. The department maintains an active outpatient service visited by approximately nine thousand patients yearly.
Through the adequate budgets allowed the department it has been possible to keep pace with all of the newer methods of diagnosis and treatment. The department not only has been from the outset ideally equipped to perform its duties to the people of the state as a helpful integral part of University Hospital service, but also has been enabled to develop a comparatively new field and to equip young men to enter it with the scientific and practical background required of competent practitioners and teachers.
Announcement, Department of Medicine and Surgery [Medical School, 1915 — ] (title varies), Univ. Mich., 1850-1940.
"A Banquet in Honor of Doctor Breakey."Physician and Surgeon, 31 (1909): 193-217.
Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1890-1914.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1914-23.
Darling, Cyrenus G., and others. "William Fleming Breakey, '59."Mich. Alum., 21 (1915): 356-58.
Hinsdale, Burke A.History of the University of Michigan. Ed. by Isaac N. Demmon. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1906. P. 327.
[News notes.]Mich. Alum., 18 (1912): 360-61; 19 (1912): 69-70; 21 (1915): 279-80.
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1890-1909, 1920-1940.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1886-1940.
Wile, Udo J."The Department of Dermatology and Syphilology."Mich. Alum., 32 (1926): 527.
Wile, Udo J."The University Hospital Department of Skin Diseases and Syphilology."Mich. Alum., 23 (1917): 268-69.