Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Department of Neurology, 1893
The medical school has offered courses in neurology since 1893 when Dr. Samuel Webber lectured twice a week on mental illness and diseases of the nervous system; the following year he was made the first professor of neurology. At that time neurology resembled psychiatry, and few neurology departments existed in the United States. School lectures focused on such topics as "the feebleminded," abnormal personalities, and drug and alcohol addiction.
In 1902 Dr. Morton Prince became professor of neurology and chief at the Boston City Hospital. An accomplished physician and researcher, he was the author of several books, including Dissociation of the Personality (1902) and The Unconscious (1913). He also founded the Journal of Abnormal Psychology and served as its editor for twenty-three years. In 1910 he was appointed president of the American Neurological Association.
In 1922 Dr. Abraham Myerson became the third professor of neurology. Although he was initially based at the Boston City Hospital, he later transferred to the Boston State Hospital, where he founded a division of research. During his tenure, the teaching of neurology changed dramatically at the medical school due to the opening of the Pratt Diagnostic Clinic in 1938. The major focus became medical illnesses - such as stroke, epilepsy, neuromuscular disease, and brain tumors - and their effects on the nervous system. At this time neurology began to resemble its present discipline.
Until 1955 neurology at the New England Medical Center was managed by consultants whose primary appointments were in the Harvard Neurological Unit at the Boston City Hospital. That year, however, Dr. John E Sullivan, a general practitioner who had been trained in neurology in the Harvard Neurological Unit, joined the New England Medical Center and rose to the rank of professor and chairman of neurology at the medical school. He gradually built the first full-time department of neurology at both the New England Medical Center and at Tufts. The faculty he recruited included Drs. C. Wesley Watson, Huntington Porter, Thomas Twitchell, John Hills, Daniel Drachman, Elliott Marcus, and Ed Rabe.
Dr. Sullivan was a charismatic teacher and clinician; a mentor for students, residents, and faculty; and an important force in American neurology during the third quarter of the twentieth century. He was successful in creating a productive department at both the school and the medical center. He retired as chairman in 1976 but continued to see patients and provide guidance to students and junior colleagues for an additional eight years.
In 1977 Dr. Theodore Munsat was named head of the department. Dr. Munsat had held an appointment at the University of Southern California, where his work on neuromuscular disease had attracted notice. At Tufts he recruited Drs. Walter Bradley, John Growdon, Bruce Erhenberg, and Michael Pessin. Drs. Munsat, Bradley, and Lester Adelman, a neuropathologist at the school, went on to create a neuromuscular unit that became known world-wide. In 1982 Dr. Munsat stepped down as chairman in order to devote more time to research. He later became president of the American Academy of Neurology.
Dr. Thomas Twitchell served as interim chair until Dr. Louis Caplan, the current chair of the department, was recruited in 1984. Dr. Caplan, who graduated from the University of Maryland's medical school and trained at the Boston City and Massachusetts General Hospitals, had been chief of neurology at the Beth Israel Hospital and a professor at the University of Chicago. Throughout his career he has held leadership positions in a number of national societies and committees and has served on many editorial boards. As chairman, Dr. Caplan continued the work of developing both the stroke unit and the neuromuscular division at the New England Medical Center and introduced epilepsy, neurophysiology, and neuro-oncology sections. The pediatric neurology division was greatly enhanced by his recruitment of Dr. N. Paul Rossman from Boston University. The program was also strengthened by the recruitment of Dr. Alan Ropper, acting chief of neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a pioneer in neurological intensive care, to St. Elizabeth's Hospital and of Dr. A. Bernard Pleet, a former neurologist at the San Diego Naval Hospital, to the Baystate Medical Center.
Today the department focuses on the teaching of neurosciences, neuropathology, the core curriculum, and electives. It also directs an active research program.
Source: COE, 136-37.