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Release: Oct. 8, 2002

(Photo: Richard D. Williams, M.D., UI professor and head of the department and the Rubin H. Flocks Chair in Urology)

UI Department of Urology celebrates 75th anniversary

Developing one of the first prostate cancer treatments, establishing the nation's first sperm bank, graduating the first female resident in urology -- these are among the achievements the Department of Urology at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine will celebrate in recognition of its 75th anniversary. The department, which is the second oldest academic urology department in the nation, will hold its celebration Oct. 11-12.

The celebration will be held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Iowa Urological Society. The scientific portion of the meeting will include talks by former residents, faculty and staff. Nearly 100 people have signed up to attend the anniversary celebration. Following the event, the department will host the Second Annual International Prostate Cancer Research Conference.

The UI Department of Urology is one of the largest such departments in the country and has specialists in all areas of urology, said Richard D. Williams, M.D., UI professor and head of the department and the Rubin H. Flocks Chair in Urology.

"The early pioneers of the department set the pace for us to advance patient care, urologic investigations and education of medical students and residents," said Williams, who has served as department head since 1984. "The past advances in urology as a whole have been incredible, and the future holds even more promise. As a department, it has been exciting to be part of this growth."

The department has grown exponentially since Nathaniel Alcock, M.D., was recruited in 1923 to develop a teaching program for students and residents. In 1927, the department was formally established with Alcock as department head.

Williams holds the chair named for the second department head, Rubin H. Flocks, M.D., who served from 1949 to 1974. In addition to promoting medical student and resident education opportunities, Flocks developed the radioisotopic treatment of prostate cancer with colloidal radioactive gold, known as brachytherapy. Bernard Fallon, M.D., professor, now directs the brachytherapy program as well as the sexual dysfunction program.

Some of the greatest growth in the UI Department of Urology has been in research capacity. David Lubaroff, Ph.D., UI professor and a researcher with the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, was recruited in 1973 as the first basic scientist in the department. In 1997, Timothy Ratliff, Ph.D., professor, was recruited to hold the Andersen-Hebbeln Endowed Chair of Prostate Cancer Research.

The department's research team now includes 33 investigators and staff and collaborates with the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI. The department and Holden Cancer Center recently announced a $10 million campaign to fund the J. Hayden Fry Center for Prostate Cancer Research.

One of the leading areas of urologic cancer research at the UI is gene therapy for prostate cancer treatment, which involves manipulating the body's immune system to battle cancer at the cellular level. The department also is home to clinical trials for superficial bladder cancer, a prevalent but often undertreated condition. Those investigations are led by Michael O'Donnell, M.D., associate professor. Others participating in urologic cancer research and/or treatment at the UI are Thomas Griffith, Ph.D., assistant professor; and Badrinath Konety, M.D., assistant professor; and Yi Luo, M.D. associate research scientist.

A new program associated with the department involves the da Vinci robotic surgery device, which uses robots and computers to allow for more precise surgical treatment with quicker and less painful recovery for patients. Howard Winfield, M.D., UI professor of urology, who helped bring the new technology to the UI earlier this year, also performed the world's first laparoscopic (minimally invasive) partial nephrectomy (removal of a portion of the kidney) in 1992 at the UI.

The UI Department of Urology is home to the only male infertility clinic in the state. In the mid-1950s faculty member Raymond Bunge, M.D., developed a special medium for preserving sperm, which led the way to artificial insemination as a clinical treatment for infertility and the UI's launching of the first sperm bank in the United States. This treatment program now is directed by Jay Sandlow, M.D., associate professor of urology, who is organizing the 75th anniversary events.

The department also is known for its leadership in urodynamics care, which under the directorship of Karl Kreder, M.D., professor, helps people with voiding dysfunction (problems with urination and incontinence).

Also known for its extensive pediatric urology services, the department has the only two fellowship-trained pediatric urologists in the state, Christopher Cooper, M.D., assistant professor, and Christopher Austin, M.D., assistant professor.

"The past achievements in urology have been incredible, but the future holds even more promise," Williams said. "As a department we will continue our legacy by pursuing research for improved treatments, offering patient care in all specialty areas and providing outstanding educational opportunities for our residents and medical students."

Individuals with secondary appointments in the UI Department of Urology are: Michael B. Cohen, M.D., UI professor and head of pathology, and Amy Sparks, Ph.D., UI research scientist in obstetrics and gynecology.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at