Overview of Laboratory Research

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology was founded in 1943 in midst of World War II. Training physicians for the military was a primary mission. Materials were scarce and available supplies were being diverted to the war effort.

So, it is not surprising that research during the time William F. Mengert, MD, was chair (1943-1955) mainly focused on clinical observations and developing guidelines for practicing physicians. Dr. Mengert had neither the resources nor the inclination to pursue laboratory or “fundamental research” as he called it. Such research, he felt, should be left to large, well-endowed departments in older universities.

“On the other hand,” Mengert contended, “any man with sufficient imagination can become aware of a small problem and devise simple experiments to test his views.”1

It wasn't until the early 1950s that clinical research turned to the laboratory for answers. With the chairmanship of Jack A. Pritchard, MD, (1955-1969), basic research had its genesis. A trained pharmacist, Dr. Pritchard had contemplated an academic career in pharmacology before deciding on obstetrics and gynecology. His experiences in the laboratory forever influenced his clinical practice and teaching.

Dr. Pritchard brought evidence-based medicine to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and launched the department on a path of basic and clinical research that continues to this day.

With the hiring of Paul C. MacDonald, MD, in 1962, Dr. Pritchard expanded the scope of basic research and laid the seeds for a decade of pioneering studies on estrogen biosynthesis. During Dr. MacDonald's tenure as chair (1970-1977) and Director of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences (1970-1997), the department was at the forefront of research into female reproductive health and its influence on infant development.

The evolution of laboratory research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is captured in words and pictures on the following web pages.

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1From the President’s address at the 16th Annual Meeting of the Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Denver, Colorado, September 23-25, 1948.  Published in Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1949 Aug;58(2):213.