Our History

Origins of the Department

Anatomy is the oldest discipline in medical sciences and education. The departmental structure of the Medical School at Western was instituted in 1927. The Department of Anatomy split into two departments from 1934 to 1964: The Department of Anatomy, and the Department of Histology and Embryology. The two departments merged again in 1964 to form a single Department of Anatomy in which all anatomical sub-disciplines were included. In 1995 it was re-named the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology.

William Ebenezer WaughThe precursor of our current Medical Faculty or School was the “Cottage Medical School” (1882-88), a cottage located on St. James Street in London, having no departmental structure. The school, privately owned by physicians, was financially independent from Western University, and referred to as the “Medical Department of Western University”, including three basic medical science chairs: Anatomy, Physiology and Normal & Pathological Histology. Dr. William Ebenezer Waugh (left), was the first documented chair of Anatomy. After graduation from the Komoka Academy he served as an apprentice prosector of Anatomy at this school and then went to study Medicine at McGill University with an illustrious classmate, Sir William Osler. He returned to London to set up a medical practice, and successively chaired Anatomy (1882- 84) and Surgery (1884-86). He also served as the Registrar/Treasurer at Western (1886-1917).

Gross Lab annex pre 1900(Above) A group in the Gross Anatomy Laboratory of the pre-1900 annex.

Around 1889, the Medical School moved to a new building at York and Waterloo Streets. In the new building, the successive Anatomy chairs were Dr. Joshua M. Jackson (1885-1890), Dr. William J. Mitchell (1890—1897), Dr. Hadley T. Williams (1897- 1903) and Dr. Edwin Seaborn (1903-1911).

First four department chairs of ACB

In 1913 the Medical Department at Western became a true “Faculty”, now administered and financed by Western, having loosely structured Basic Science and Clinical departments or disciplines. It occupied a newer building on Ottaway Avenue (current South Street), with Dr. Hugh A. McCallum as the first Dean. The South Street campus served as the Medical Faculty site from 1913 to1947. A few stone-masonry dissection tables remaining in the current Anatomy department bear the historical heritage of the South Street campus.

McKibben SkinnerDr. Paul Stilwell McKibben (left) became the first chair of the Department of Anatomy (1913- 1927), later to become the Dean of the Medical Faculty.He was an accomplished teacher of Anatomy, with special interest in Neuroanatomy and also a good administrator. While serving as the Dean of Medicine, he was one of the three deans to serve as “Triumvirate” Presidents at Western (1919–1927).


The departmental structure was formally instituted in 1927-28. Dr. Alan Skinner (above, right), MD served as the Head, Department of Anatomy (1928-1952). He was an accomplished educator. In 1921, Dr. Skinner recruited Dr. C.C. MacKlin as a professor of Histology. He was an accomplished Canadian-born scientist working at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Personality conflicts between Drs. Macklin and Skinner led to the splitting of the department into two: Anatomy and Histology & Embryology (1934-52)

MacklinDr. Charles Clifford Macklin, MD, D.Sc (honoris causa) (Born 1888-Died 1959) became the Head, Department of Histology and Embryology (1934- 1952). He retired in 1958. He was an accomplished researcher on the structure, physiology and pathology of the lungs, publishing 130 original research articles, some with his wife Madge T. Macklin, an instructor. Based on his observations on the morphological structure of “granular” (later called type 2) pneumocytes, as early as 1946, he predicted their specialized secretory functions for a product, later to be identified as the lung surfactant.


Golden Era of Discoveries

BarrDr. Murray Llewellyn Barr (left), MD, MSc, OC, FRSC, FRS (Born June 20, 1908 – Died May 4, 1995) served as the Chairman, Department of Histology and Embryology (1953- 1964), and the Chairman of the (renamed) Department of Anatomy (1964-1967). He remained active until 1973. His time was a golden era of discoveries. He taught Neuroanatomy and his research was in Neurocytology. With his graduate student Mike Bertram, he discovered “sex-chromatin” (inactive X chromosome), popularly known as the “Barr body”, a name he detested. This research led to the development of cytogenetics and cytogenetic origin of human diseases.

Members of ACB(Above) Drs. Lala, Shaver, Martin, Montemurro, Buck and Barr.

Keith Moore, another graduate student, developed the buccal smear test to identify genetic sex of an individual. Research on cytogenetic origin of mental retardation in children became a major focus of the newly established Children’s Psychiatric Research Institute (CPRI) on Sanatorium Road in London, with cross appointments of some medical geneticists, such as Hubert Soltan, to the department of Anatomy. Dr. Barr received many accolades including the Gardiner Foundation International Award, Favelle Medal, Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation International Award, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize. He was inducted to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame posthumously. He authored a highly popular text book, The Human Nervous System, currently titled Barr's The Human Nervous System: An Anatomical Viewpoint, edited by Kiernan and Rajakumar. He also authored: A Century of Medicine at Western: A Centennial History of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario, 1977, which is the source of much of the history documented above. During his time several notable faculty members joined, including Drs. R.C. Buck and D.G. Montemurro who served as later chairs. To honor him the department (chaired by Dr P.K. Lala) initiated an annual Murray Barr lecture series (1993—current) supported by Murray Barr trust funds. Dr. Barr personally attended these lectures in 1993 and 1994.  

BuckDr. Robert Crawforth Buck, MD, MSc, PhD (born 1923 – Died 2016) served as the Chair from 1967 to 1972. He studied medicine at Western, did his postgraduate work in England and joined the Department of Anatomy where he remained for the next 41 years. His interest and teaching centered on histology and his research was on epithelial cell biology and repair. He was an avid electron microscopist-- so much so, that he took home and refurbished an old electron microscope to make it functional in his home basement.


MontemurroMartinDr. Donald G Montemurro,PhD (left), served as Chair from 1972 to 1977. His research interest was in Neuro-endocrinology. He taught Neuro-anatomy and produced many teaching videos in Anatomy with assistance of another faculty member, Dr. Rod Singh.

Dr. Alexander Martin, PhD (right), was Chair during 1978-1983. His research interest was in Teratology and he taught Anatomy.

LalaDr. Peeyush K. Lala, MD, PhD, D.Sc. (honoris causa) served as Chair from 1983 to 1993; Prof Emeritus (active 2000-present). His research interests are in placental development in health and disease and cancer biology. His research resulted in a successful clinical trial of cancer immunotherapy in advanced kidney cancer and melanoma, and the discovery of a predictive blood biomarker for the pregnancy-associated disease preeclampsia. He taught Anatomy and Embryology. During his long career at Western he received many honors and awards including an international symposium held in his honor (co-sponsored by the MRC Canada at Queen’s University in 2001); Doctor of Science degree awarded by Western , 2013; Lawson impact career scientist award, 2017; Henry Gray Scientific Achievement Award of the American Association for Anatomy (AAA), 2020. The same year he was elected a Fellow of the AAA.

Dr. Lala was recruited from the Department of Anatomy at McGill University by the Dean Martin Hollenberg to elevate the research profile of the department. This objective was achieved by Dr. Lala during his two terms, as evidenced by some seven-fold increase in the external research funding from about $ 300,000 to close to more than two million dollars, and a four-fold increase in the number of graduate students from 7 to 28.

ACB Faculty and Staff(Above) Members of the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology after the Barr Lecture, 1993.

Some notable faculty members already serving during his time were: Drs. R. C. Buck, D. G. Montemurro, Alexander Martin, John Kiernan (conducting research in histochemistry and teaching neuroanatomy), Bessie Borwein (conducting research on primate retina), Evelyn Shaver (doing research on male reproduction and teaching histology), Brian Flumerfelt (conducting research on central control of motor activity and teaching histology; he also served as the Assistant Dean of Research, at the Faculty of Medicine). Dr. Peter Haase (conducting research on moto neuron regeneration, and teaching anatomy & embryology). Dr. Alan Hrycyshyn (conducting research on neural pathways and teaching anatomy). Dr. Elias Gammal, (conducting research on the structure of primate placentas and teaching anatomy). Dr. Gabriel Altman (conducting research on intestinal epithelium and carcinogenesis, and teaching histology). Dr. Khadri Galil (research on cyanoacrylates & periodontal wound healing and teaching anatomy). Dr. Rod Singh (research on cytogenetics, teaching anatomy). Dr. Francis Chan (research on cancer cytogenetics, and teaching anatomy & embryology). Dr. Chan later became a highly eminent educator, receiving national awards.

Dr. Lala, with the help of Dr. Elias Gammal and other anatomists, introduced some major changes in the Annual Anatomy Memorial Service, that used be held under a tent, at the time of interment of the ashes in the Western-owned burial plot at the Woodland Cemetery. They instituted a new non-denominational, multi-faith service in a chapel auditorium, presenting reflections by anatomy students, faculty members and pastors, attended by the family and friends of the body donors and the public. Over the years this service became highly popular, elevating the public image of the body bequeathal program. In addition, a solemn and short prayer service was instituted for the students in their first anatomy lab, to help them overcome the fear of cadaveric dissection and affirm their respect for the donor. 

Dr. Lala recruited Dr. Kem Rogers (conducting research in vascular biology and teaching histology), Dr. Peter Merrifield (conducting research in muscle development and teaching anatomy & embryology), Dr. Christian Naus (conducting research on gap junctions and teaching neuroanatomy), Dr. Michelle Mottola (joint appointee with Kinesiology, conducting research in exercise and pregnancy , and teaching anatomy), and Dr. Monica Caverson (Ontario Heart and Stroke Foundation scholar, conducting research on neural control of vascular tone).

Dr. Peter Haase PhD, was the Acting chair 1993-1995. Dr. Marjorie Johnson was recruited in 1994 as a teacher. She bloomed to become an eminent educator of anatomy, and the associate chair of the Clinical Anatomy division.

Departmental Metamorphosis

FlumerfeltDr. Brian F Flumerfelt PhD, Chair 1995-2005; Research interest: Neurosciences involving central control of motor activity; taught Histology. During his time the department continued to thrive in research and education, and was renamed Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology in 1995. Multiple retirements led to recruitments that boosted research in many areas: Dr. Paul Walton (from McGill University, conducting research on peroxisomes and teaching cell biology). Dr. Dale Laird (also from McGill University, conducting research on the biology of gap junctions in health and disease and teaching cell biology). He took over the gap-junction lab vacated by Dr. Christian Naus who accepted a position at the University of British Columbia as the chair of Cellular and Physiological Sciences.

Dr. Laird’s research thrived, making him an international leader in gap junction research. Dr. David Cechetto, doing research on neuro-degenerative disease and teaching neuroanatomy, later became the Director of Rebuilding Health in Rwanda, funded by CIDA. Dr. Martin Sandig, doing research on trans-endothelial migration of cells and teaching histology. Funding by the department of Psychiatry assisted recruitments of Drs. Nagalingam (Raj) Rajakumar and Walter Rushlow (both ex-graduates of this department), conducting research in neurosciences and teaching neuroanatomy. Under the stewardship of Drs. Haase and Hrychyshyn, Clinical Anatomy became the first program in Canada training graduate students for teaching and research in human macroscopic anatomy.

LehmanDr. Michael L. Lehman PhD served as Chair 2005-2010. His research interest was Neuroendocrinology and Circadian Rhythms; taught Neurosciences. (Currently Director, Kent State University’s Brain Health Research Institute). Dr. Lehman arrived at a time when the department was facing a crisis of morale, a possible break-away of Clinical Anatomy from the department. This crisis was soon averted by formally creating a division of Clinical Anatomy, initially led by Dr. Peter Haase and, later by Dr. Marjorie Johnson, both eminent teachers receiving many national awards. Dr. Lique Coolen (spouse of Mike Lehman, recruited as an Associate Professor at the same time) was an accomplished researcher on neural control of reproduction.

The student numbers increased progressively both in the area of Cell Biology and Clinical Anatomy, so also the ratio between PhD and Master’s students. Recruitment of several young investigators boosted the research strength: Dr. Lynne Postovit (research in cancer and developmental biology, teaching cell biology; currently at the University of Alberta). Drs. Steve Laviolette, and Susanne Schmid (both conducting research in neural behaviour and teaching in neurobiology). Dr. Tim Wilson (research in anatomical education and teaching anatomy). Other core, joint and cross appointees supervising graduate students in anatomy strengthened the research sector: Dr. Marco Prado (Robarts Institute, research: neuronal communications); Dr. Vania Prado (Robarts institute, Research: cholinergic system), Dr. Arthur Brown (Robarts institute, research : developmental and molecular neurobiology), Dr. Alison Allan (LRCP, research: cancer metastasis biology; Director, Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit), Dr. Trevor Shephard (Obstetrics, research: Ovarian cancer. Co-Director of Translation Ovarian Cancer Research Unit).

Modern History of Anatomy & Cell Biology

RogersDr. Kem A. Rogers PhD, Acting Chair: January 2011 to June 2012; Chair 2012-2017 (currently Chair, Construction Oversight Committee, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry). Research interest: Vascular Biology, Anatomical education; Taught: Histology. During his time serving as Chair, several recruitments enriched both research and education: Dr. Brian Allman (Research: neuro-physiology. Teaching clinical anatomy), Dr. Patrick Lajoie (Research : Biology of protein folding; teaching : cell biology), Dr. Silvia Penuela (Research: Pannexins in cancer biology, teaching cell biology ), Dr. Stephen Renaud (Research: placental development; teaching: Anatomy and Embryology); Dr. Shawn Whitehead (Research: Shared mechanisms in Stroke and Alzheimer’s disease; teaching neuroanatomy), Dr. Katherine Willmore (Research: Craniofacial development, teaching: Anatomy), Dr. Charys Martin (Anatomical Education); and Dr. Lauren Flynn (joint appointment with Chemical & Biochemical Engineering ; Research: tissue engineering with bio-scaffolds, adipose-derived stem cells).


Dr. Alison Allan, PhD, Acting Chair: February 2017-January 2018; Chair: February 2018-present. She also directs the Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit at the LRCP. New recruitments have enhanced the teaching and research profile of the department including Dr. Tyler Beveridge and Dr. Michele Barbeau (research and teaching in clinical anatomy), Dr. Vanessa Dumeaux (research and teaching in data science/bioinformatics), and Dr. Jibran Khokhar (research and teaching in translational neuroscience). There have also been a number of collaborative cross-appointments with other basic and clinical Departments including Dr. Krishna Singh (Medical Biophysics); Dr. Armen Parsyan (Surgery/Oncology); and Dr. Caitlin Symonette (Surgery/Paediatrics).