Divisional History

Until 1968, most patient care and research in pulmonary medicine by the faculty of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center was carried out in the Columbia Division at Bellevue Hospital where Drs. André Cournand and Dickinson Richards developed the Cardiopulmonary Laboratory during the 1930's and won the Nobel Prize in 1956. Their initial efforts produced what has since become the standard methodology for characterizing respiratory function. They then proceeded to explore normal physiology and the abnormalities generated by disease. The defining abnormalities of chronic airway disease and of diffuse diseases of the lung interstitium (as well as their impact respiratory gas exchange and on the pulmonary circulation and right heart) were described in collaboration with Drs. R.M. Harvey, M.I. Ferrer, W.A. Briscoe, H.W. Fritts and their fellows. Innovations in the management of respiratory failure were introduced that have since become standard therapies. The technique of lung morphometry was developed by Drs. D. Gomez and E. Weibel.

Following the restructuring of the academic affiliations of Bellevue Hospital in 1968, the activities of the Columbia pulmonary faculty moved to Washington Heights and the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. The Pulmonary Division was led there initially by Dr. R.M. Harvey and included many of the former Bellevue group. Dr. Yale Enson conducted studies of the chemical control of the pulmonary circulation and of the vasomotor induction of pulmonary hypertension in airway disease; of methods for characterizing changes in pulmonary vascular resistance; and of the hemodynamics of interstitial lung disease. Dr. P.R.B. Caldwell and colleagues purified angiotensin converting enzyme and demonstrated its vascular endothelial membrane localization. Dr. D.F. Rochester examined diaphragmatic work, oxygen consumption, and blood flow and developed the concept of respiratory muscle fatigue. Dr. N. Braun examined respiratory function in neuromuscular disease. Dr. R. Cole elucidated the role of myoglobin in oxygen transport to and utilization by skeletal muscle. Dr. H. Thomas examined vasomotion in shunt pathways produced by resorption atelectasis, as well as its control.

Dr. Caldwell became director of the Division in 1983, and the techniques and methodologies of cell and molecular biology achieved a more prominent role in the Division's activities. Dr. Paul Rothman assumed direction of an ever expanding Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine in 1997. This appointment marked the beginning of a major effort to expand the clinical and basic research programs of the Division. Dr. Rothman's research centered on cytokine signaling and the role of cytokines in lymphocyte development. He opened the Laboratory of Allergy and Inflammatory Lung Diseases to study airway inflammation and oncogenesis. Dr. Neil Schluger joined the Division as Clinical Chief in 1998. In 2005 Dr. Schluger was appointed as Chief of the Division and continues his research into the epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis infection and disease.

Under Dr. Schluger’s leadership the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine has continued to grow and is now recognized as one of the leading academic divisions in the country. Dr. Byron Thomashow developed and serves as the Medical Director of the Jo-Ann F. LeBuhn Center for Chest Disease and Respiratory Failure. Through this Center, the Division participated in the NIH-sponsored National Emphysema Therapy Trial, the NIH-sponsored study of lung volume reduction surgery as a treatment for emphysema, and Dr. Thomashow continues to lead innovative programs in the treatment of COPD. Dr. Robert Basner leads the Sleep and Ventilatory Disorders Laboratory, and under his direction this lab has developed into a leading center of research and patient care. Dr. Sanja Jelic performs pioneering studies in the pathogenesis of vascular complications of sleep-disordered breathing and Dr. Amy Atkeson has developed a large program of research and care for patients with neuromuscular disorders. Dr. Selim Arcasoy joined the Division in 2001 to serve as Medical Director of the Lung Transplant Program. This program has grown into one of the largest in the country and has unmatched outcomes. A program of basic and clinical research in asthma is centered on the newly created John Edsall – John Wood Asthma Center. Dr. Rachel L. Miller, who also leads the excellent and highly competitive fellowship program in allergy, studies mechanisms of allergen sensitization in asthma, and Dr. Emily DiMango conducts a number of clinical trials of new therapeutic agents. Dr. David Lederer conducts a wide range of clinical and epidemiology studies examining risk factors and outcomes for patients with diffuse parenchymal lung disease and lung transplant. Dr. Daniel Brodie has developed an innovative program for the treatment of acute respiratory failure using extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), and he is recognized as an international leader in this area. Drs. Roger Maxfield and William Bulman lead our bronchoscopy program, which offers state of the art interventional techniques for diagnosis and treatment. One of the most exciting developments in the division is the recent establishment of the Price Family Comprehensive Center for Chest Disease, which is a joint activity with the Division of Thoracic Surgery. This center, which will occupy an entire floor in the Herbert Irving Pavilion, will allow us to provide coordinated care which is integrated with clinical research and teaching programs for all patients with lung disease at CUMC. Construction of the center will begin soon, and the Center is expected to open officially in 2013. Our outstanding pulmonary and critical care training program is led by Dr. Kristin Burkart, and it continues to attract applicants from the best internal medicine residencies in the country.

Efforts in basic science are led by Dr. Jahar Bhattacharya, who directs the Laboratory of Lung Biology and who is also the principal investigator for our NIH-funded T32 training grant in basic lung biology.

We are proud also of several recent Division alumni who have gone on to important leadership positions at other institutions. These include Dr. Steven Greenberg, now Director of Clinical Research at Merck Laboratories; Dr. Phillip Factor, now chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York; Dr. Charles Powell, now chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York; and Dr. Paul Rothman, recently named dean of Johns Hopkins Medical School and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Division is currently configured to integrate patient care, teaching of medical students, residents, and fellows, and basic and clinical research into a cohesive whole dedicated to progress in all areas of pulmonary medicine, allergic diseases, and critical illness.

Columbia University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons

CUMC College of Physicians and Surgeons seal

Columbia University began as King’s College, which was founded in 1754 by royal grant of King George II. After closing during the American Revolution, the school reopened in 1784 as Columbia College, which was later renamed Columbia University in the City of New York in 1912. The original King’s College organized a medical faculty in 1767 and was the first institution in the North American Colonies to confer the degree of Doctor of Medicine. In 1814 the medical faculty of Columbia College merged with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which had obtained an independent charter in 1807. The College of Physicians and Surgeons became the Medical Department of Columbia College in 1860, and from that time on the diplomas of the graduates were signed by both the President of Columbia College and the President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The connection was only nominal, however, until 1891 when the College was incorporated as an integral part of the University.

Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

Old buildingIn 1928 Columbia University affiliated with The Presbyterian Hospital in the City of New York to create the first modern medical teaching center in the world. Located in the heart of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center (CPMC) has established an outstanding record of innovative leadership in patient care, medical education, and research. An impressive number of medical advances have been pioneered at the medical center throughout the twentieth century in a wide variety of disciplines, including the first use of oxygen tents in the 1920’s, radioactive isotopes to treat thyroid cancer in the 1940’s, the Apgar score in the 1950’s, the first electro-physiology lab in the 1960’s, the development of the intraaortic balloon pump for cardiovascular surgery in the 1970’s, the mapping of T cell CD4 antigen through the use of x-ray crystallography in the early 1990’s, and more recent discoveries including the role of Human Herpes Virus 8 (HHV8) in the development of Kaposi’s Sarcoma. These advances help to underscore the exciting clinical and basic research history and current research activity of the Medical Center.