On January 1, 1946, the autonomous and independent Department of Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University was established under the chairmanship of Benjamin Howard Robbins, M.D. (Ref: Minute of the Executive Faculty-Vanderbilt University School of Medicine—December 15, 1945). New research indicates that we were probably the third autonomous Department of Anesthesiology within a medical school in the United States (research is still incomplete).
It should be noted that, even though Dr. Robbins held the MD degree, by late 1945 he had spent very little time with human patients. Therefore, while the Department of Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt was established on January 1, 1946, he quietly spent the first six months of that year at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota learning human anesthesia as a “Fellow in Anesthesiology” under the direction of the great Dr. John Lundy.
Lawrence G. Schull, Sr., MD, began his formal residency in anesthesiology on January 1, 1946, and later admitted that there was no one to teach him, so he taught himself. Dr. Robbins returned from Mayo and he and “his resident”, “Larry” Schull possessed about the same amount of clinical experience in administrating anesthesiology to humans! Despite Robbins’ brief training, he was granted full Diplomate status by the American Board of Anesthesiologists in 1952, probably partly in recognition of his outstanding academic qualifications.
Tragically, Robbins experienced a massive heart attack while administrating anesthesia in Vanderbilt Hospital on December 15, 1960, and passed away less than 24 hours later. In addition to the many accomplishments noted in his attached biography, Dr. Robbins had expanded the faculty from one in 1946 to six at his death. He trained twenty-seven resident physicians in anesthesiology of whom two eventually became full professors at other universities and one a full professor at Vanderbilt. Approximately one-half of these graduates became founding members of physician anesthesiology departments in non-university hospitals all over middle Tennessee, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
On January 1, 1961, Dr. Robbins’ loyal and respected first resident, Lawrence G. Schull, Sr., MD, was appointed Acting Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology and remained in this post until June 31, 1962.