Anniversaries, Milestones

This year marks the 150-year anniversary of the New York Orthopaedic Hospital, the centennial of the Center for Radiological Research, the 75th anniversary of an ophthalmology course, and the 50th anniversary of the Bard Hall Players (see P&S Club Corner for more about the Bard Hall Players).

New York Orthopedic Hospital

The Department of Orthopedic Surgery began in midtown Manhattan in 1866 as the New York Orthopaedic Hospital, an independent charitable organization dedicated to treating spinal deformities and musculoskeletal diseases affecting poor children. Its founders placed an early emphasis on patient-centered care and medical instruction. The hospital moved to the medical center in late 1950. Over the years, Columbia Orthopedics has been home to many innovations in treatment, research, and education.

In honor of the 150-year anniversary, the biennial meeting of the New York Orthopaedic Hospital Alumni Association in May concluded with a special celebration. More than 200 alumni, faculty, residents, and guests attended a gala at Gotham Hall, only a block away from the original NYOH location. A four-volume set of books chronicling the history of the department, edited by department chair emeritus Louis U. Bigliani, MD, commemorated the occasion.

“The weekend was a fantastic tribute to our past, present, and future,” says William N. Levine, MD, the Frank E.

Stinchfield Professor and Chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. A number of attendees expressed appreciation, pride, and confidence in the department and its leadership.

Basic Science Course in Ophthalmology

The Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute is marking the 75-year anniversary of offering a basic science course in ophthalmology. The monthlong course, first offered in 1941, includes more than 100 hours of lectures and workshops that feature more than 80 international experts in the field.

The course focuses on resident training, but it is also useful for visual science professionals as it examines the fundamentals of vision and emphasizes how basic principles relate to patient care.

The curriculum is developed by a committee of scientists, practicing clinicians, and the chief academic resident. The course is updated annually to include the most recent scientific advances and address any controversial developments in the field. It also is revised in response to feedback from course evaluations.

More information is available on the course website,, and registration is open for the January 2017 course.

100 Years of Radiological Research

The Center for Radiological Research was founded in 1916 by Gioacchino Failla, a student of Marie Curie, and housed at Memorial Hospital before moving to P&S in 1942. It was the first U.S. institution entirely devoted to developing and improving medical applications of radiation.

In its early years, the center focused on moving radiation therapy for cancer from an “art” to a genuine clinical science. Edith Quimby joined the center early on and became the country’s first female medical physicist. Her work on radium needle radiotherapy—in which needles containing radium are inserted directly into tumors—led her to develop guidelines for needle placement that were adopted worldwide. These “Quimby Rules” are still applied today, although radium has since been replaced by other radioisotopes.

Many practical advances have emerged from the center during its first 100 years:

• In the early 20th century, radium was used to treat cancer but it was extremely expensive (originally costing more than $178 million per ounce), and the radium needles were thick and painful to insert. Dr. Failla, the center’s founder and first director, devised a radium-emanation plant to produce radon gas from radium. The radon gas was then encased in a thin needle or seed for implantation into tumors.

• The center’s second director, Harald Rossi, developed spherical counters that allowed researchers to precisely measure the radiation dose experienced by a single cell. These “Rossi counters” helped launch the field of microdosimetry, which is now essential for radiation protection and effective delivery of radiotherapy. In some of these counters, the wire at the center was a human hair coated with colloidal graphite.

• In the 1990s, based on the realization that prostate cancer cells usually grow very slowly, basic studies by Eric Hall, the center’s third director, and David Brenner, the center’s fourth director, suggested that dividing radiation treatment into just a few “fractions” with higher doses would work just as well as standard prostate cancer radiotherapy (delivered in 40 daily fractions of lower doses). Clinical trials have backed up these calculations, and many men are now treated with fewer fractions, reducing cost and increasing convenience.

• More recently, the center has developed ultrahigh throughput techniques to rapidly measure individual radiation exposures in hundreds of thousands of people potentially affected by a “dirty bomb” or other large-scale nuclear events. This technology provides rapid triage to identify people who are significantly exposed and need treatment, while providing active reassurance to those who did not get significant exposures.

• Center researchers are developing the use of far-UVC ultraviolet light, a particular wavelength of UV light, which is as effective as conventional germicidal ultraviolet lamps in killing drug-resistant bacteria, including so called superbugs as well as viruses, but does not have any of the human safety hazards associated with conventional germicidal lamps.

• Today, under the leadership of David Brenner, center researchers investigate both the effects of high doses of radiation (new approaches for radiotherapy, including the very promising carbon-ion radiotherapy) and the effects of very low doses of radiation, such as medical CT scans, naturally occurring radon, airport whole-body X-ray scanners, and the potential aftereffects of a large-scale radiation accident such as at Fukushima.

More information about the center’s work can be seen in a 100th anniversary video at