Stuart C. Cullen, Anesthesia: San Francisco


Stuart C. Cullen's career ended with his death on August 11, 1979. His career was one of distinction not only to the University of California but to his local community and the national and international academic medical world. β€œStu” was born, reared and educated in Wisconsin, where he received his M.D. in 1933. After a brief attempt at private medical practice in that time of great financial stress, he elected to enter a then new and controversial medical specialty--the exclusive practice of anesthesia. He went to N.Y.U. and Bellevue Hospital in New York City for his training, from which he emerged as one of the world's pioneer anesthesiologists. From 1938 until his retirement in 1973, he was at the forefront in the teaching, research and administration which developed this specialty and supported many of the innovations of companion specialities.

Specific milestones attesting to his contributions are the development of two distinguished teaching departments, first at the University of Iowa and then at the University of California, San Francisco, to which he came in 1958. His creativity was apparent as his Iowa department was among the first to explore specific organ toxicity of anesthetic agents, development of respiratory care units, the effects of neurotransmitters injected into the subarachnoid space and the effects of anesthetic agents in cellular respiration, all done before World War II. His support for and promotion of research continued throughout his career and his UCSF Anesthesia Department became the most productive in the world.

Dr. Cullen's capabilities were recognized nationally by his appointments to and involvement with the National Research Council Committee in Anesthesia, National Institutes of Health Study sections, the American Board of Anesthesiology, and as a founding member of the Association of University Anesthetists.

In 1950, the World Health Organization chose him as one of three physicians to organize an international course in anesthesia to train practitioners and teachers for war-torn and underdeveloped nations. This course remained active until 1975.

― 51 ―

Even with these accomplishments, those who worked with him will claim that his greatest contribution was as a teacher and role model. World renown and administrative burdens failed to keep him from the clinical environment where he remained as a provocative, effective and kind teacher. Fourteen of his residents occupied chairs of university departments and two became medical school deans. Many others held and continue to hold full-time academic posts. His son, Bruce, followed in his footsteps and became professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesia at UC, Irvine.

In 1966, he was appointed dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and the same commitment and effort which had taken the Department of Anesthesia from obscurity to renown led the medical school through the troubled times of the late 60s. During this time the school underwent extensive liberalization of the curriculum and developed a very effective affirmative action program. In 1970, he left the dean's office to resume his role as the most effective teacher in the department.

Following his retirement, he assumed a more active role in community service. He was elected supervisor in Belvedere, California, was a member of the Bay Area Pollution Control Board, continued to serve on UCSF committees and was serving as Mayor of Belvedere at the time of his death.

He effected his message by personal example, and a direct approach which was free of arrogance and avoided embarrassment or intimidation. He waged a persistent battle against dogma and stereotyped instruction. He wanted his department to produce perennial students who could ask answerable questions as opposed to those who knew answers. His success in doing this is evidenced not only by accomplishment of his students but the affection and respect which his students and colleagues developed.

He received recognition from a variety of professional societies here and abroad and received UCSF's highest distinction, the UCSF Medal, in February 1979.

William K. Hamilton Charles T. Carman John W. Severinghaus