Great Moments in Lahey History

A Tradition of Excellence

From Frank Lahey’s first clinic to the great Lahey system today, our physicians and other providers have been committed to innovation, cooperation, compassion and the highest quality of care. It’s evident in our long list of medical “firsts” and other accomplishments that Lahey remains at the forefront of medicine.

It began with Dr. Lahey’s talents and vision, which are summed up by Lahey urologist Leonard N. Zinman, MD:

“History is driven by visionaries and revolutionaries, and Frank Lahey was both. He was one of the surgical giants of the 20th century…a master surgeon, a great teacher and an incredibly engaging individual.”

95 Years of Making History

For nearly a century, Lahey has led the way across a spectrum of medical fields. Our physicians have been part of critical moments in history, and have selflessly contributed to global health. These noteworthy achievements tell our story:

1912. Dr. Frank Lahey, 32 years old and eight years out of Harvard Medical School, is appointed instructor in clinical surgery at Tufts Medical School.

1918. Dr. Lahey becomes a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and goes to France to serve as director of surgery in an evacuation hospital. Dr. Lahey dreams of creating a group medical practice back home with a handful of salaried specialists at its core.

1921. Dr. Lahey establishes a medical office in Boston. He hires operating nurse Blanche Wallace, RN, anesthesiologist Lincoln F. Sise, MD and gastroenterologist Sara Murray Jordan, MD.

1925. Dr. Sara Jordan founds the Gastroenterology Department, becoming its first chair and the first woman to lead a medical department.

1928. Dr. Lincoln Sise invents the Sise introducer, which revolutionizes spinal puncture techniques for anesthesia and the tapping of spinal fluid.

1936. Dr. Lahey and his colleagues become renowned for their unique two-stage operation for cancer of the rectum. This concept is later applied to other surgeries, keeping mortality rates low.

1939. Thoracic surgeon Herbert Dan Adams, MD, performs the first open-chest heart massage for cardiac arrest.

1942. Twenty-two Lahey physicians are in active military service; the clinic sends monthly checks to their wives and families.

1944. Dr. Lahey consults on the health of President Roosevelt, concluding he will not survive another term in office. After relaying his findings to the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Lahey reluctantly agrees to remain silent.

1947. John F. Kennedy, a frequent and long-term patient at Lahey Clinic, sees Dr. Jordan for his gastrointestinal problems and orthopedic surgeons for his chronic backache.

1952. British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden comes to Lahey Clinic for a bile duct repair to correct a previous surgery, enhancing the clinic’s international reputation and that of surgeon Richard Cattell, MD.

1953. Dr. Lahey suffers a heart attack and dies on June 17, leaving a legacy of world-renowned multispecialty care and surgical innovation.

1959. Lahey neurosurgeon Charles A. Fager, MD, treats Red Sox slugger Ted Williams for a pinched nerve in the neck.

1964. The clinic establishes a research division directed by Elton Watkins Jr., MD, who invents a pump oxygenator for open heart surgery and the Watkins USCI Chronofuser, a “miniaturized,” self-contained, portable infusion mechanism for chemotherapy.

1964. U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and playwright Lorraine Hansberry [“A Raisin in the Sun” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”] are both treated at Lahey Clinic.

1965. Neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Fager saves the life of Hall of Fame horse trainer John Nerud after a toss from a stable pony. The grateful trainer names a young thoroughbred in his honor, and the equine “Dr. Fager” becomes a racing legend.

1968. Renowned neurosurgeon James L. Poppen, MD, flies to Los Angeles to attend to presidential candidate and personal friend, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who is shot June 5 at a campaign event and dies within hours.

1970. Burlington, population 22,000, is selected as the site of the new Lahey Clinic.

1980. The new Lahey Clinic Medical Center opens in Burlington in late November.

1985. Lahey cardiologist Sidney Alexander, MD, shares the Nobel Peace Prize with fellow members of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

1991. Lahey surgeons perform the first laparoscopic colectomy, an operation to remove all or part of the colon.

1993. Lahey physicians launch the Global Outreach Program, which goes on to send multispecialty staff on humanitarian missions to 32 countries.

1999. Lahey Clinic surgeons perform the nation’s first combined live-donor liver and kidney transplants simultaneously.

2005. Lahey’s Live Donor Adult Liver Transplant program becomes one of the nation’s first to be accredited.

2012. Patricia L. Roberts, MD, is named chair of the Division of Surgery, becoming the first woman to hold this position.

2012. Lahey Clinic merges with Northeast Health System to form Lahey Health. Lahey Clinic is renamed Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.

2017. Lahey Health, the Beth Israel Deaconess system, New England Baptist, Mount Auburn and Anna Jaques hospitals commit to forming a new health system.

2017. The Joseph C. Corkery, MD, Emergency Center opens for patients on January 25 and serves 45,357 patients in the first year of operation.

2018. David L. Longworth, MD, who was Chair of Lahey’s Department of Primary Care and Chief Medical Officer of the Community Physician Network, is named chief executive officer.

Dr. Longworth is committed to our founder’s vision, stating, “My role as CEO is to honor Frank Lahey’s vision of a patient-centered, multidisciplinary practice that serves patients in our community, helps train the next generation of physicians and advances medical knowledge through research and clinical innovation.”

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.