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Dr. Henry Mankin Remembered

March 19, 2019
Image of Henry Makin
Dr. Henry Mankin was a leading advocate for the IHP's creation.

It was the early 1970s, and Henry J. Mankin had just been appointed chief of orthopaedics at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

It wasn’t long before he heard about a new school—its working name was MGH University—that was being contemplated. The hospital had recently decided to shut down its century-old nursing diploma school but wanted to remain in the higher education business. Dr. Mankin, who also was chair of MGH’s Committee on Teaching and Education, was all in.

Mankin, who passed away last December at the age of 90, was remembered by several people associated with the Institute from its early days as a leading advocate for the school’s creation. 

“Henry was one of the only physicians at the hospital who was involved early on,” recalled Alan Jette, a physical therapist who was among the IHP’s first faculty members. “Most of the doctors thought the Institute could become a distraction, but Henry knew immediately that it could be a great asset to MGH as well as be a new kind of health professions school.” 

Mankin originally worked with Dr. Charles Sanders, the hospital’s general director, who had continued the early efforts of Dr. John Hilton Knowles after Knowles’ unexpected early death. When Sanders left for the private sector, Dr. J. Robert Buchanan picked up the mantle, and he and Mankin shepherded the Institute’s application past strenuous objections from several area universities and ensured it received approval from the state’s board of higher education. 

Most of the leaders of non-medical departments at the MGH, including Ruth Sleeper (nursing), Marjorie Ionta (physical therapy), Annie Galbraith (dietetics), Julie Atwood (speech-language pathology), and Barbara Berkman (social work), along with Nancy Watts, who ran the hospital’s education department, joined Mankin as acting faculty even before the first classes were offered. (Dietetics and social work closed in the 1980s due to changing market conditions.) 

Mankin, an orthopaedic surgeon, was well-connected to the physical therapy world, and he convinced several PTs with whom he worked to be the IHP’s first students. Among that initial group was BA Harris, who recalled how Mankin talked up the fledgling school at every chance. 

“Henry was dedicated to the school’s mission of developing leaders in the health care professions. He frequently gave talks at the hospital, and he held well-attended lectures at Shriners Auditorium to publicize the IHP,” said Dr. Harris, who would receive the Institute’s first graduate degree in 1983 and spend most of the next three decades as a faculty member. “He was its spirit and energy in those early years.” 

Mankin taught courses in orthopaedics, physiology, and biomechanics at MGH’s Ruth Sleeper Hall, where the IHP initially was located. He also served as a preceptor and thesis reader for students, many of whom used his data about his patients to produce research projects and write articles that would be published in peer-reviewed journals. 

Additionally, Mankin was one of the school’s first trustees, serving for 20 years until 2001, when he was named an honorary trustee. He continued to lecture well into the first decade of the 21st century, co-chaired the 2008 Institute Gala with Sanders, and established the Mary Mankin Prize in honor of his mother, which is awarded each year to a graduating DPT student. 

“I think it’s safe to say that without Henry’s dedication and commitment, the Institute never would have made it to where it is today,” said Dr. Jette, who remains on the school’s faculty in the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program. "He never wavered in his belief."