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A History of the Anesthesiology Department

You may be surprised to learn that the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Oklahoma is one of the oldest in the country. Throughout the United States, anesthesia departments typically functioned under the department of surgery. When Dr. John Moffitt came to Oklahoma in 1930, our department became first freestanding Department of Anesthesiology in the country.

The first courses in anesthesiology were taught by Dr. John Mosby Alford starting in 1911. At that time, the course was offered to fourth year medical students. The course was under the Department of Medicine and Anesthesiology which was a division of the Department of Surgery. In 1912, each medical student was required to perform 6 general anesthetics for successful completion of the course.


From 1913 to 1930, the course was taught by Dr. Jackson Floyd Boland and continued to be a course for fourth year medical students. Boland was promoted to assistant professor in 1916 and department head in 1923. During this time, Dr. Boland was one of two professors. The other, Dr. George Rex Boland left the department for military obligations in 1917.



Dr. Ralph Waters

dr-ralph-watersIn 1930, Dr. John Moffitt was appointed as dual head of the Departments of Anesthesiology and Medicine. This was the first year that the Department of Anesthesiology was considered its own department independent of any other specialty. Dr. Boland remained on staff as professor and two anesthetists, Drs. George Mechling and Willard Lemon, joined the department to focus solely on the delivery of anesthetics for surgery. Dr. Moffitt came to the University of Oklahoma from Wisconsin where he had trained under Dr. Ralph Waters who had designed the three year residency for anesthesiology in 1927. Waters was well known for using a CO2 absorber during clinical anesthesia in 1923, designing the cuffed endotracheal tube with Guedel in 1928, and reporting on the use of cyclopropane and sodium pentothal in 1934.

Dr. John Moffitt

dr-john-moffitIn 1936, the Department of Anesthesiology at OU initiated its first four year anesthesiology residency with Dr. Moffitt serving as the Chairman of the program. At this time, senior medical students were required to give 12 general anesthetics. The first residents were Dr. George Mechling and Dr. Hudson Swain. Dr. Mechling had joined the department in 1930 after leaving his general practice to focus solely on anesthesiology. Mechling and Swain remained with the department as instructors. They would later be joined in 1937 by Dr. Grace Hassler, the first female resident and instructor in the department.

In 1938, Dr. Moffitt retired as Chair and was subsequently replaced by Dr. Hubert Doudna who would serve as Chair and instructor until 1945 when he was given leave due to military obligations and was replaced by Dr. Albert Foster. At this time, the department had five instructors and the rotation was opened up to third year medical students as well as fourth year students. 



Dr. Albert Foster


Dr. Howard Allen Bennett

Dr. Doudna returned to his position as department head in 1946. In 1948, Dr. Howard Allen Bennett came from the University of Iowa and replaced Doudna who remained on staff as an instructor.

Dr. Bennett remained program head until 1955. During this time, the department enjoyed a period of expansion going from 6 faculty members to 14.

Dr. Joseph White

In 1955, Dr. Joseph White joined department as Chair. White had come from Southern Methodist University and would serve as Chair for the next decade. Dr. Bennett remained as faculty instructor much like Doudna had after Bennett had joined. By 1965, the anesthesiology rotation was offered to third year medical students solely as an elective course.


In 1965, Dr. James Cutter joined the department and would serve as the Chair until 1970. At this time, the department had 17 faculty members and medical students were continued to offer the anesthesia elective.


Dr. Stanley Deutsch

In 1971, Dr. Stanley Deutsch joined the department as Chairman and held this position until 1982. The department enjoyed another period of growth during this time and additional clinical faculty members were hired bringing the total number to 26.