Joachim Stefan Gravenstein, MD, founded the Division of Anesthesiology at the University of Florida in 1958. Prior to this, he earned his first medical degree in his native Germany in 1951 from the University of Bonn. From 1952 until 1958, he was in Boston where he completed a residency and research fellowship in anesthesiology and a second doctor of medicine degree at Harvard University School of Medicine.
Dr. Gravenstein was recruited by Dr. Edward Woodward, chairman of surgery, and Dr. George Harrell, dean of the College of Medicine, immediately after graduation from medical school to be the chief of anesthesiology at the new College of Medicine at the University of Florida. At age 33, he was the youngest head of an academic anesthesiology department in the United States.
During his time at the University of Florida, Gravenstein’s accomplishments were vast. He was fiercely dedicated to making improvements in patient safety and resident education.
Dr. Gravenstein was the co-founder and original member of the Board of Trustees of the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) and he also led a team of scientists and engineers in the creation of “Stan” the Human Patient Simulator and the Virtual Anesthesia Machine (VAM).
These inventions, created and maintained here at UF, remain some of the most widely used medical simulation devices both nationally and internationally. In 2009, Dr. J.S. Gravenstein died at the age of 83, but up until 4 weeks prior to his passing, he was still actively involved in the department and could be found teaching residents and medical students in the simulator lab.
In 1969, Jerome H. Modell, MD, took over the fledgling department, which at the time comprised 11 people: one administrator, six faculty, and four residents. He served 23 years as chair, holding several administrative positions in addition to Chair of Anesthesiology and overseeing the establishment of a visiting professor program that has brought more than 200 professors to the department.
The Chairs following Dr. Modell were Roy Cucchiara, MD, who played a large role in establishing the Jerome H. Modell, MD, Endowed Professorship; Nikolaus Gravenstein, MD, who oversaw the department’s development of a cardiac anesthesia fellowship that flourishes to this day; Kayser Enneking, MD, who led the department through a period of enormous growth and major systematic and organizational improvements despite major challenges; and present Chair, Timothy E. Morey, MD, who has overseen the introduction of cutting-edge technology focused on further improving patient care and safety.
The Great Recession
Around 2008, the department went through a tumultuous time resulting from the Great Recession; the College of Medicine cut funding in several areas, while patients putting off medical care to avoid out-of-pocket costs were coming to the hospital sicker than ever. The hospital was at peak capacity during this time, which was exacerbated by several staff departures. An abrupt need for anesthesia staff at the Alachua General Hospital stretched the hospital’s resources even further, and clinicians during this time were working harder for no extra pay.
This period was a test of the department’s resilience and commitment to patient care as well as continuing academic improvement, and it resulted in several systematic improvements.
The opening of the UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital in 2009 alleviated many of the challenges the department had been facing, as well as created opportunities for new leadership roles and organizational changes in the department.
The hospital introduced new technology in the operating rooms. Quality and safety became a major focus. Within 2 years of introducing these systematic changes, the hospital jumped to the top quartile among University Health System Consortium peer hospitals in the areas of patient safety and mortality.
Also in 2009, the department developed the Gravenstein Scholars Program to attract and support promising anesthesiology residents in developing their academic portfolio during residency. The program has produced three Gravenstein Scholars who have all successfully embarked on academic anesthesiology careers.
In December of 2017, the UF Health Heart & Vascular, Neuromedicine Hospitals opened adding 216 private rooms and 15 operating rooms to the UF Health Shands Hospital network. The new hospitals represent an important step in UF Health’s ongoing efforts to meet the growing needs of patients in the Gainesville area, and throughout the state, the Southeast and beyond.
Our department continues to grow year after year and is today one of the larger programs in the country, continually achieving national and international distinction.
The Living History of Anesthesia
A Conversation with Jerome Modell, MD, and J.S. Gravenstein, MD
An Interview with J.S. Gravenstein, MD
Did you know?
The department’s first publication appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1959.
Members of the department have been authors or co-authors of more than 5,000 publications since its founding.
The department receives over $2 million per year in research grants and private donations, and currently has over $7 million in endowments.
In 2020, the department anesthetized more than 49,000 patients.