Department History

Portrait of George W. Corner

George W. Corner, MD, Professor & First Chair, Anatomy

The Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy dates to the earliest moments of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and is among the five original basic science departments of the medical school. In 1925 the Department, then titled Anatomy, was the first to begin instruction of medical students just as the science departments began moving into the new medical center complex. Among the key leaders of the institution at that time was the first Chair of Anatomy, George W. Corner, an embryologist and reproductive biologist.

Since its inception the Department has maintained a strong commitment to both research and teaching, with an enduring blend of training for both clinicians and scientists of the future. The Department of Anatomy was among the first to offer formalized graduate training leading to advanced degrees (MS and PhD).

Early research lab - Dr. Jesse L. King (1926)

The first candidates began study in 1929, and to date more than 90 PhD degrees have been conferred. The commitment to quality teaching by faculty in Anatomy, and then Neurobiology and Anatomy, has been extraordinary, as witnessed by the remarkable proportion of commendations and awards both from the institution and by students in both the medical and graduate curricula over the years.

A characteristic of the Department has always been its collaboration with others, including clinical departments. A variety of novel training programs have been initiated over the years that underscore this cooperative philosophy. Under the chairmanship of Dr. Carl E. Mason, ties with Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery were initiated which included rotations in Anatomy during residency training. Later, under Dr. Wilbur K. Smith, fellowship training in Pediatric Neurology included similar training arrangements within the Department.

University of Rochester Medical Center (1926)

Under the chairmanship of Dr. Carl M. Knigge, the focus of the Department began a gradual shift (ultimately a national trend) toward the neural sciences. This process eventually led to a change in the Department's title to Neurobiology and Anatomy in 1985 under the chairmanship of Dr. John R. Sladek, Jr. The Department continued its close ties with clinical disciplines, and these are reflected in the large proportion of individuals completing medical as well as graduate training in the Department.

An interesting new program initiated by Dr. Gary D. Paige, current Chair of the Department, is the Post-Graduate Medical Scientist Training Program in Medical Neurobiology. This unique program, co-sponsored with Neurology, is designed for MD-PhD graduates, and provides advanced training for individuals seeking an integrated path through a clinical residency in Neurology together with a post-doctoral research fellowship in Neurobiology.

Original hospital entrance now graces Library entrance

The diversity of training in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy (NBA) continues today, as witnessed by the interesting combination of recent candidates within our graduate program. Students include those who have pursued PhD degrees as well as others within the MD-PhD program or in conjunction with the Dental Fellowship program. A variety of clinical residents and fellows (e.g., Neurology, Otolaryngology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry) have also sought concentrated research training within the Department.

We welcome this diversity and breadth along with the extraordinary interactions with our colleagues in neighboring departments. For PhD candidates in particular, the research and educational environment provides an attractive breadth that is synergistic with the Department's graduate curriculum. This translates into a highly attractive outcome as students look toward the future as scientist/educators and clinician/scientists of the future.