Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Dermatology


Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has played a significant role in the study and practice of Dermatology in Chicago and the world. Following is a timeline of key events in our history.


James Nevin Hyde, MD, arrives in Chicago. He was the first Professor of Skin-Genitourinary and Venereal Disease at Northwestern University, appointed in 1876.


Dr. Hyde is the first to note the relationship between ultraviolet light and skin cancer, which he wrote about in the major dermatology text, Diseases of the Skin


Joseph Zeisler, MD, who trained with Dr. Kaposi in Vienna, becomes the first chair of the Department of Dermatology when it was formally established in 1896, the year that the medical school was first organized by departments.


Dr. Hyde named the first President of the Chicago Dermatological Society.


Frederick Harris, MD, succeeds Dr. Zeisler as department chair.


Arthur Stillians, MD, is named chair of the department.


Edward Oliver, MD, is appointed department chair. He is instrumental in the tremendous growth of the Chicago Dermatological Society.


Herbert Rattner, MD, is named department chair in 1951. Dr. Rattner champions bench research at Northwestern and established laboratories that investigated collagen, exopeptidases, and fluorescent substances in hair. He is the editor of the Archives of Dermatology and a prolific writer.


Samuel Bluefarb, MD, is named chairman of the department and the first Walter J. Hamlin Professor of Dermatology. Dr. Bluefarb starts the strong program in cutaneous lymphomas at Northwestern and wrote extensively about lymphomas and skin signs of systemic disorders. The annual Bluefarb lecture at the Fall Chicago Dermatological Society meeting is named in his honor.

Training in dermatology in the early years involve the trainee spending time in a dermatologist’s office as a preceptor, and, until 1977, the chairs of dermatology were part-time at the medical school and part-time in private practice.


The Dermatopathology Section of the department is initiated by William Caro, MD, and plays a major role both in the teaching of dermatopathology and in rendering dermatopathology services to many practicing dermatologists. 


Prior to 1974, residents saw patients at Northwestern’s Montgomery Ward Clinic under the supervision of the clinical faculty.  In 1974, the first faculty-based practice group is established, the Northwestern University Medical Associates. This group evolves into the current faculty-based practice group, the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. 


Formal resident training in Pediatric Dermatology begins with the appointment of Dr. Nancy Esterly as the full-time Head of the Division of Dermatology at Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago).

The first full-time chair, Henry Roenigk, MD, is appointed. The operation of the Dermatology Clinic, both in medical and surgical dermatology, as well as clinical research, is greatly expanded during his tenure.


The first Pediatric Dermatology fellowship in the United States was established at Children’s Memorial Hospital. 


David Woodley, MD, is appointed chair of the department. The laboratory research program was expanded during his tenure.


A two-year Dermatopathology Fellowship is established. 


John Ansel, MD, becomes chair.  He appoints Robert Lavker, PhD, as Director of Research and establishes the Dermatology Research Unit.


Amy Paller, MD, is appointed chair and further expands the teaching faculty and scope of clinical and research activities. 


The department moves to a 24,000 square foot facility on the Northwestern medical campus. The facility houses all of the academic offices as well as a markedly expanded medical and surgical dermatology facility.  The Clinical Trials Unit is formally established; virtually all clinical faculty members participate in investigator-initiated and/or pharmaceutical company sponsored trials with adult or pediatric patients.


The Northwestern University Skin Disease Research Center (NU-SDRC) is established with funding from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NAIMS) (PI: Amy Paller, MD, Co-I: Robert Lavker, PhD). The goal of the NU-SDRC is to promote first-class translational research in epithelial biology, ultimately to improve patient care.