The Centenary of Radiation Oncology at Mount Sinai Morningside

Among the several anniversaries the Mount Sinai Health System will celebrate this year, is the centenary of the establishment of the Radiotherapeutic Department at our Morningside campus. The Department was established under the direction of Dr. Francis Carter Wood, who was the Hospital’s Pathologist, and the director of that Department beginning in 1910 when it separated from the Medical Service, until 1948.

Wood was born in 1869 in Columbus, Ohio, into a medical family – his grandfather was Dr. Francis Carter of Columbus, and his great-grandfather, Dr. Francis Boake Carter, was the founder of Starling Medical College in Columbus, now a part of the Ohio State University. Grandson Francis Carter Wood graduated from Ohio State University in 1891. He enrolled in the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, and graduated in 1894. Between 1894 and 1896, when he joined the faculty of clinical pathology at Columbia University, he continued his studies in Vienna and Berlin. He was a friend of Mme. Currie’s, whom he probably met during this time, and became interested in radium therapy.

He returned home to join the staff of St. Luke’s Hospital in 1897, eventually becoming the Hospital Pathologist. Wood’s interest in radium therapy led him to become a pioneer in the use of X-rays and radium therapy for the treatment of cancer. In 1905 the X-ray department, which until that time had been under the Pathology Department, formalized as its own service, under Wood’s direction.

Dr. Wood established the Radiotherapeutic Department in 1921, while remaining director of Pathology. The department started with six Associates training under Wood’s leadership. Within 5 years, the department was handling over 1,000 patients a year. Wood served as director of both departments until his retirement in 1948.

Upon his death in 1951 at the age of 81, Donald S. Childs, M.D wrote of Wood, “His greatest contributions were educating the public to a proper attitude toward cancer, disproving sensational but false “cures” for the disease, and developing the three most effective methods of treating cancer – surgery, x-rays, and radium.”