100 Years of Columbia Urology

Urology at P&S started in 1917 when J. Bentley Squier, an 1894 graduate of P&S, founded a clinic with the support of his many generous patients throughout the world. When Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center opened in 1928, the Squier Urological Clinic had its own operating and cystoscopy rooms, pathology and X-ray departments, and library. He also established a 30-bed pediatric urology service in the medical center’s new Babies Hospital. The clinic became a formal department, with Dr. Squier as chair, in 1935.

A century after its founding, P&S urology is ranked as a leading urology program and one of the top recipients of NIH funding. Urology faculty were the first to characterize bladder carcinoma in situ (localized), treated differently from other such cancers; describe renal tuberculosis, a form of advanced kidney infection; and outline and use the now ubiquitous prostate-specific antigen (PSA) density test. 


Other highlights:

• George F. Cahill, who became chair in 1939 after the sudden death of Dr. Squier, specialized in adrenal surgery and early investigations into the care of patients with pheochromocytoma, a nonmalignant tumor of the adrenal glands. Under Dr. Cahill’s direction, a cancer research service began at the Francis Delafield Hospital, leading to innovative basic and translational cancer research. Dr. Cahill also reported that human chorionic gonadotropic hormones cure cryptorchidism, the absence of one or both testes from the scrotum, the most common birth defect of the male genitals.

• Meyer Melicow formed the Squier Urological Pathology Section and published extensively, earning him the moniker “Father of Uropathology.”

• John Lattimer’38, who became chair in 1955, expanded pediatric urology and developed innovative treatments for prostate cancer, combining different surgeries to prolong life. He conducted research and innovative treatment of genitourinary tuberculosis.

• Carl A. Olsson, who became chair in 1980, was respected for his work in urinary diversion surgery and reconstructive urology. Under his leadership, the department’s molecular biology research program flourished and garnered national recognition for fundamental work in castration-resistant prostate cancer under Ralph Buttyan. Innovative techniques introduced during Dr. Olsson’s tenure include prostate cryosurgery, robotic and laparoscopic surgery for prostate cancer, continent urinary diversion for bladder cancer, and nephron sparing surgery for kidney cancer. Landmark studies in serum biomarkers for prostate and kidney cancers also occurred during Dr. Olsson’s tenure.

• Mitchell Benson’77 succeeded Dr. Olsson as chair in 2006. He is credited with describing the concept of PSA density in the diagnosis and monitoring of prostate cancer. Dr. Benson expanded a basic science research division within the department and consolidated all urologic research laboratories into the new cancer center facility. The department opened its first satellite division of urology, in Miami, Fla., which has five full-time faculty and its own residency training program.

• The department’s current chair, since 2014, is James McKiernan’93. He leads a team of researchers investigating the clinical outcomes of patients with kidney, prostate, and bladder cancer. Under his leadership, the department opened its first Westchester office.