Department of Neurology Columbia University Neurological Institute  
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HISTORY OF THE NEUROLOGICAL INSTITUTE



the neurological institute of new york buildings history

The Neurological Institute, originally located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was established as the first specialty hospital in the United States devoted entirely to the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system.

Kings College was founded in 1754 by royal charter from King George II, one of six colleges in the American colonies at the time. The others were Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton. As a result of nationalistic sentiments which culminated in the American Revolutionary War, the college was renamed Columbia College, after Christopher Columbus. The Medical Department of King's College was founded in 1767. This was the second medical school in the American colonies and the first to grant a medical degree. In 1807, the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) was founded as a rival institution in the City of New York, but in 1813 it merged with Columbia College's Medical Department. The new entity became known as P&S. The Presbyterian Hospital (PH) was founded in 1868. In 1928, the Hospital moved from its first location at 70th Street and Park Avenue to its present site in Washington Heights on the banks of the Hudson River. In moving, the PH joined with P&S at a time when the academic medical center was a new concept. The resulting Columbia University Medical Center was the first such academic medical center in the United States.

NI Eastside original locationThe Neurological Institute of New York (NI) was founded in 1909. While the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases at Queens Square and the Salpêtrière were well known in Europe, there were no similar institutions in the United States at that time which had special wards for patients with neurological disorders. The NI was established as the first specialty hospital in the nation devoted entirely to the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system. Early consulting neurologists included some of the founders of American neurology: Charles A. Dana, Bernard Sachs, Pearce Bailey, and Joseph Collins. Each served as president of the American Neurological Association (some of them more than once!). From 1948 to 1967, the NI became inextricably linked with the name H. Houston Merritt, who is one of the giants of modern neurology and one of the most celebrated clinical neurologists of the 20th century. Merritt's Textbook of Neurology, first published in 1955, is in its 12th edition. The current editors of Merritt's Textbook are Dr. Lewis P. Rowland, one of the most internationally prominent leaders in the field and former Chairman of the Department (1973-1998) and Dr. Timothy A. Pedley, Chairman of the Department from 1998 to 2011. Dr. Richard Mayeux was named Chairman in 2011.

Neurosurgery, Pediatric Neurology, Neuropathology, and Neuroradiology have all flourished at NI. At its founding, a Neurosurgery Service was established by Charles A. Elsberg, who with Harvey Cushing and Charles Frazier founded the Society of Neurological Surgeons. Elsberg was succeeded by a series of eminent neurosurgical leaders: Byron Stookey, Tracy J. Putnam, J. Lawrence Pool, Edward B. Schlesinger, Bennett M. Stein, and Robert A. Solomon (the current Chairman). In 1933, Bernard Sachs, of Tay-Sachs eponymic fame, became the first Chief of Pediatric Neurology at the NI; he was followed by Louis Casamajor and, in 1951, by Sidney Carter. Dr. Carter was the most prominent of these, playing a major role in establishing child neurology within American medicine as a separate subspecialty-which itself was based on the NI model. Dr. Carter was awarded the first NIH Pediatric Neurology Training Grant and was one of the founders of subspecialty board certification in pediatric neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. In 1979, Dr. Darryl C. De Vivo succeeded Dr. Carter as Director of Child Neurology and the first Sidney Carter Professor. Dr. De Vivo, one of the most eminent pediatric neurologists in the world today, introduced a new era of laboratory-based investigation and related clinical research to the Division. Under his direction, an NIH-funded institutional training grant provides support for career development of pediatric neuroscientists. The Colleen Giblin Laboratories for Pediatric Neurology Research were established in 1991 on the 9th floor of the NI as the core research facility of the Division.

Wilder Penfield came to the NI in 1923 as a neuropathologist and neurosurgeon following studies with Ramon y Cajal. In 1928, he left to become one of the founders and the first Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute. Dr. Cornelius Dyke was the first full-time radiologist at the NI. He was followed by Dr. Juan Taveras, who established the first training program in neuroradiology in the US.

The Department of Neurology includes nearly 160 full-time faculty members, of which about 110 have some clinical activities. There are 46 postdoctoral fellows, 24 adult neurology residents, and 6 pediatric neurology residents. The NI has a long tradition of clinical investigation and basic research. Among neurology departments in the country, the NI has consistently been ranked within the top five in research funding from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke. Our divisions indicate the depth of the program in Neurology: Aging and Dementia, Clinical Neurophysiology, Epilepsy, General Neurology, Movement Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology, Neurointensive Care, Neuromuscular Diseases, Neuro-oncology, Pediatric Neurology, and Stroke.

In January, 1998, the Presbyterian Hospital in the City of New York and the New York Hospital merged to form a single institution: The New York-Presbyterian Hospital. While the hospitals have been combined, Columbia's College of Physicians & Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medical School remain separate entities. Beginning in 2011-2012, neurology residents will be routinely involved in cross rotations involving both campuses, and residents from each institution are encouraged to explore electives and research opportunities at the other site. The Neurological Institute building is presently undergoing extensive renovation. The third (Movement Disorders), fourth (Neurosurgery), sixth (Stroke) and seventh (Epilepsy Center) floors of the building have been completed, as has the main conference room (Alumni Auditorium). A new Spine Center has opened on the fifth floor, and there is new clinical space for the Division of Aging and Dementia on the first floor in the Lucy G. Moses Center for Memory and Behavior Disorders. The basement of NI has been beautifully reconstructed as a state-of-the-art research center for functional brain imaging. Neuro-oncology has new space on the second floor and also in the Herbert Irving Cancer Center.

In September 2009, The Neurological Institute celebrated its 100th anniversary.

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