Richard John Kitz papers
The Richard John Kitz papers, 1950-2004, document the administrative, teaching, and research activities of Richard J. Kitz, Henry Isaiah Dorr Professor of Research and Training in Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital. Kitz later served as Faculty Dean for Clinical Affairs at Harvard Medical School from 1994 to 1999.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. There are restrictions on access to portions of this collection. Access to Harvard University records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series III. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I, III, and IV. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.
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Extent6.7 cubic feet (6 record cartons, 3 half document boxes)
The Richard John Kitz papers (1950-2004, inclusive; 1969-1994, bulk) are the result of Kitz’s research, professional activities, and work at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston, Massachusetts. The bulk of the records are the product of Kitz’s work as the Henry Isaiah Dorr) Professor of Research and Training in Anesthesia, and as Chair of the Department of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. His research activities included study of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), neuromuscular transmission and blocking agents, and the technology and history of anesthesia delivery. Kitz’s early career at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Presbyterian Hospital, both in New York City, New York, is documented in Series I and Series II with other personal papers. The collection includes photographs and cassette tapes. Photographs and non-print materials are housed in box 7.
Richard John Kitz (1929-2017), B.S., 1951, and M.D., 1954, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was Chief of Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 and Henry Isaiah Dorr Professor of Research and Training in Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, in 1970; his research focused on acetylcholinesterase (AChE), neuromuscular transmission and blocking agents, and the technology and history of anesthesia delivery. Kitz was appointed Faculty Dean for Clinical Affairs at Harvard Medical School in 1994, a position he held until 1999. In this position, Kitz oversaw the changing relationships between the patient care, research, and educational efforts of the Harvard Medical School clinical faculty at affiliated hospitals.
Richard John Kitz was born on March 25, 1929 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Lana and Edward Kitz. The 1930 U.S. Census identified him as white. He received a B.S. in chemistry and an M.D. from Marquette University in 1951 and 1954, respectively. From 1954 to 1955, Kitz served as a surgical intern at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Presbyterian Hospital, both in New York City, New York. He served two years in the United States Navy from 1955 to 1957, where he learned anesthesiology at a naval hospital in Corona, California, and later served as a post surgeon in Japan. After returning from his military service, Kitz completed a general surgical residency at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1957, and a second residency in anesthesiology at Columbia in 1960., During his 1960 residency, he was named Assistant Anesthesiologist at Presbyterian Hospital, a position he held until 1966. He was simultaneously appointed Instructor in Anesthesiology at Columbia in 1960, and became Assistant and then Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, from 1962 to 1969. While at Columbia, Kitz’s research primarily involved the biochemical pharmacology of cholinergic sites (nerve cells in which acetylcholine acts as a neurotransmitter) and focused on molecular probes, aceytlcholinesterase (AChE, an enzyme that breaks down a neurotransmitter into its components), and anticholinesterase agents (AChE inhibitors). These studies helped develop new drugs, especially neuromuscular blocking agents later used clinically. Kitz was awarded a National Institutes of Health Special Research Fellowship in the Department of Neurochemistry at Columbia University, New York, New York from 1961 to 1962 to study with Professor Irwin B. Wilson (died 2013), a distinguished physical chemist. The research project focused on "molecular complementarity" and involved the design and synthesis of small molecules to interact with the active surface of specific enzymes involved in consciousness function. In 1968, Kitz was named a National Institutes of Health Special Research Fellow, and for nine months was a visitingr scientist with Professor Bo Holmstedt (1918-2002) in the Department of Toxicology at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. There he studied the techniques of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry as tools of pharmacologic investigation for developing short-acting, non-depolarizing neuromuscular blocking agents, used as nerve blocks during anesthesia.
In 1969, Kitz was appointed Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital, beginning a 33-year association with Harvard Medical School. In 1970, he succeeded Henry K. Beecher (1904-1976) as the second Henry Isaiah Dorr Professor of Research and Training in Anesthesia. Kitz served as principal investigator for both the Harvard Anesthesia Research Center from 1969 to 1987, and the Basic Science Research Training in Anesthesiology Program from 1969 to 1993. He also directed the Anesthesia Residency Program at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1969 to 1994. Kitz was named Professor of Research and Training in Anesthetics and Anesthesia in the Harvard University-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology in 1978, where he advised medical students enrolled in the program. From 1985 to 1990, he was the co-director of the Health Sciences and Technology division. Kitz also served as a consultant in anesthesia at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital, both in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1970 to 1994. In 1994, he retired from his position as Anesthetist-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital.
During his 30-year tenure at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Kitz guided Massachusetts General Hospital’s anesthesia department to become one of the largest in the world and an international clinical and research training center for anesthesiology and its associated sciences. During the time that Kitz directed Harvard Medical School’s anesthesiology department, there were forty trainees who later became heads of departments of anesthesia worldwide. The department established the first acute care laboratory and the first respiratory therapy department in the United States at Massachusetts General Hospital. In addition, the anesthesia department established the bioengineering unit and the outpatient surgery facility at Massachusetts General Hospital. While working for these two institutions, Kitz’s research primarily focused on the central nervous system; basic cellular mechanisms; pain management; the action of new drugs, including short-acting, non-depolarizing neuromuscular agents; anticholinesterases; and technology for anesthesia safety. He contributed to the design and study of new compounds and received several patents for neuromuscular blocking agents and other anesthesiologic drug compounds. Kitz also developed a strong interest in the prevention of anesthesia mishaps through outcome analysis, anesthesia delivery technology, and the evaluation and improvement of training and education in anesthesiology.
Kitz published over 100 articles, abstracts, monograph chapters, book reviews, and editorials throughout his career on numerous topics including acetylcholinesterase, neuromuscular blockade, muscle relaxants, and the technology and history of anesthesiology. In 1978, Kitz and the anesthesia department at Massachusetts General Hospital published Clinical Anesthesia Procedures of the Massachusetts General Hospital, a best-selling anesthesia monograph that described the clinical practices and management protocols of the Department of Anesthesia at that hospital. Due to the success of the initial monograph, the Anesthesia Department also published Postoperative Critical Care Procedures of the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1986 and The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Pain Managementedwa in 1996. Kitz collaborated with Edward Lowenstein (born 1934) in 2000 to write the history of the Henry Isaiah Dorr Professorship of Research and Teaching in Anesthesia, the first endowed chair in anesthesia in the world. In 2001, Kitz wrote his memoirs of his career at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General hospital in "No Problems, Only Opportunities: The Kitz Era 1969 to 1999," a chapter of Reminiscences of the Department of Anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital, A History, published in 2002.
Kitz served as a board member of the American Board of Anesthesiology for 12 years, culminating in his presidency of the organization in 1984-1985. From 1982 to 1985, Kitz was involved as a member and chairman of the American Board of Medical Specialties’ Committee on the Study of Evaluation Procedures. Kitz worked for the American Board of Anesthesiology and as a member of the Committee on the Study of Evaluation Procedures for changes in board certification examinations for graduates of anesthesia residency programs and frequently conducted oral examinations for the American Board of Anesthesiology. In 1985, Kitz was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and served as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Forum on Drug Development from 1990-1995. He was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Clinical Anesthesia, a journal based at Massachusetts General Hospital, from 1987 to 1995.
Kitz received many honors throughout his career including an honorary Doctor of Science degree granted by his alma mater, Marquette University, in 2000, and an honorary Master of Arts from Harvard Medical School in 1969. He was awarded Honorary Fellow status in the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and named a Fellow of the Royal College of Anaesthetists of England. Harvard Medical School established the Richard J. Kitz Professorship of Anesthesia Research in his honor in 1997.
Kitz married Jeanne Marie Hogan in 1953. The couple had a daughter, Anne Marie. Kitz died on September 19, 2017.
Series and Subseries Arrangement
- Series I. Personal and Biographical Papers, 1950-1994
- Series II. Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Presbyterian Hospital Records, 1959-1969
- Series III. Harvard Medical School Records, 1970-1998
- Series IV. Massachusetts General Hospital Records, 1969-2000
- Series V. Professional Activities, 1960-1994
- Series VI. Lectures, 1989-1990
- Series VII. Writings, 1954-2004
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Richard John Kitz papers were donated to the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine by Richard J. Kitz in 2000 and 2002.
Processed by Jennifer Pelose, May 2002.
When surveyed in 2002, most of the collection was divided into chronological sections that were further separated according to type of material and then sporadically organized alphabetically. The collection was organized into nine series. Duplicates and items not created by RJK were discarded. Items within folders were not reorganized; many were found organized in reverse chronological order.
Charlotte Lellman revised the Biographical Note and the Scope and Content notes in this finding aid in November 2020 to bring them into compliance with the Center for the History of Medicine’s Guidelines for Inclusive and Conscientious Description (2020). In particular, Lellman provided simpler language to describe Kitz's research. The previous version of the finding aid is being maintained for transparency around the descriptive process.
- American Board of Anesthesiology.
- American Board of Medical Specialties. Committee on Study of Evaluation Procedures.
- Anesthesia Adjuvants.
- Anesthesia Department, Hospital
- Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation.
- Anesthesia methods--Handbooks
- Anesthesiology--Apparatus and instruments--Standards.
- Anesthesiology--Standards--United States.
- Careers in Anesthesiology: Autobiographical Memoirs
- Cholinesterase inhibitors.
- Chromatography, Gas
- College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University.
- Education, Medical.
- Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
- Gas chromatography--Analysis.
- Harvard Medical School. Dept. of Anesthesia.
- Harvard University--MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
- Journal of Clinical Anesthesia.
- Karolinska institutet.
- Kitz, Richard J. (Richard John), 1929-
- Mass Fragmentography
- Mass spectrometry.
- Massachusetts General Hospital. Dept. of Anesthesia.
- Medical education.
- Muscle Relaxants, Central
- Muscle relaxants
- Nerve Block.
- Neuromuscular blocking agents.
- Neuromuscular transmission.
- Pain Treatment
- Papper, E.M. (Emmanuel Martin), 1915-
- Presbyterian Hospital (New York, N.Y.)
- Kitz, Richard John, 1929- . Papers, 1950-2004: A Finding Aid.
- Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
- Language of description
- The Richard John Kitz Papers were processed with support from Richard J. Kitz, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School.
- EAD ID
Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository
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