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Timeline History of SUNY Upstate Medical University

An earlier version of the following chronological list of events in the history of
the former SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse appeared in the Alumni Journal of
the SUNY HSC [i.e., Upstate] / Syracuse Medical Alumni Association (Winter 1998): 13-18.


September 15, 1834 -- Trustees of Geneva College (now called Hobart and William Smith Colleges) approve the suggestion of Professor of Chemistry Edward Cutbush, M.D. (1772-1843), to create a medical school. First known as the Medical Institution of Geneva College, then as Geneva Medical College, it was the thirtieth medical school founded in North America and the seventh in New York. Today it is the sixteenth oldest North American medical school and the second oldest in New York, behind only Columbia. Cutbush later became the school's first Dean.


January 20, 1840 -- Professor of Surgery David L. Rogers, M.D. (1799-1877), resigns from the faculty in protest. Rogers was the only professor to support Andrew Boardman, M.D. 1840, the disgruntled student who created a scandal by publishing An Essay on the Means of Improving Medical Education and Elevating Medical Character, a blunt polemic against what he perceived as Geneva Medical College's weaknesses in teaching, disadvantages in clinical facilities, and misrepresentations to students.

1840 -- Frank Hastings Hamilton, M.D. (1813-1886), begins an eight-year term as Professor of Surgery. Hamilton later achieved great fame as a military surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, and an advocate of sanitation and antisepsis.

1847 -- Austin Flint, M.D. (1812-1886), begins a two-year term at Geneva Medical College as Lecturer on the Theory and Practice of Medicine. Dubbed "The American Laënnec" by S.D. Gross, M.D., for his work in thoracic diagnosis, Flint was President of the New York Academy of Medicine from 1872 to 1885 and President of the American Medical Association in 1884.

October 20, 1847 -- As a practical joke on the faculty, the entire medical student body votes unanimously to accept the application of a woman for admission to medical school. The lone dissenter among the students is physically coerced into changing his vote. The prominent public health pioneer and surgeon, Stephen Smith, M.D. (1823-1922), briefly a student at Geneva Medical College, reported this incident in a letter to the New York Church Union in 1892.

November 11, 1847 -- Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) arrives at Geneva Medical College to begin her studies. Immediately (as reported by Smith in his 1892 letter) the usual vulgar, boisterous, and macho atmosphere of the medical college becomes more civilized, as male students, shamed by her dignity and intelligence, settle down to serious work.

January 23, 1849 -- Elizabeth Blackwell is graduated from Geneva Medical College and thus becomes the first woman in the world to earn a regular M.D. Dean Charles A. Lee, M.D. (1801-1872), praises her in his valedictory address as "a memorable example of what woman can undertake and accomplish" but warns that women entering the medical profession "must ever be too few, to disturb the existing relations of society."

1851 -- Convinced that the lack of nearby clinical facilities would soon make competition with urban medical schools impossible in the age of anesthesia, and disgusted by rapidly declining enrollments following the hostile reaction of the medical community at large to the graduation of Elizabeth Blackwell, one of the Curators of Geneva Medical College, Sumner Rhoades, M.D. 1840 (1817-1877), publicly advocates closing the medical school and substituting a school of agriculture.

1865 -- As a last, desperate effort to obtain the use of local clinical facilities, Geneva Medical College strikes a deal with the Willard State Psychiatric Hospital in Ovid. This measure proves to be too little and too late. Enrollments continue to slip into the single digits.

March 25, 1870 -- The Methodist Church charters Syracuse University.

1871 -- Hobart College dissolves the medical faculty and sells the medical library and anatomical museum to Dean John Towler, M.D. 1855 (1811-1886).

December 4, 1871 -- The Trustees of Syracuse University approve Towler's offer to donate the property of Geneva Medical College to SU on condition that SU establish and maintain a regular medical college consistent with AMA standards. Professor of Surgery Frederick Hyde, M.D. (1809-1887) became the first Dean at the new location, and Towler became Professor of Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Toxiocology.

1872 -- Mother Marianne Cope, Administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse allows students from Geneva Medical College to utilize St. Joseph's for their years of clinical instruction. This approval was instrumental in the decision to move Geneva Medical College to Syracuse University. Mother Marianne insisted on the right of each patient to be treated with respect and dignity.

1872 -- First classes held in temporary quarters in the Clinton Block next to the Erie Canal.

1872 -- John S. Van Duyn, M.D. (1843-1934), begins a monumental 54-year medical teaching career in which he offered courses on anatomy, histology, ophthalmology, otology, surgery, and the history of medicine. He retired in 1926 as Professor of Surgery.

1875 -- The College of Medicine moves into permanent quarters at the remodeled carriage factory on McBride Street. Medical faculty mandates compulsory student participation in all autopsies.

1876 -- Sarah Marinda Loguen (1850-1933), daughter of abolitionist Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen, becomes the first African-American woman to earn an M.D. from Syracuse University. After practicing in Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C., she moved in 1882 to Santo Domingo, where she married Charles A. Fraser.

1877 -- William Pepper, M.D. (1843-1898), of the University of Pennsylvania compares the Syracuse University College of Medicine favorably with Penn, Harvard, Chicago Medical College, and the University of Michigan.

1882 -- Henry Leopold Elsner, M.D. (1855-1916) begins teaching medicine in Syracuse. His intimate familiarity with German methods of medical education enabled Syracuse University College of Medicine to be among the first in America after Johns Hopkins to build and upgrade laboratory facilities on the then state-of-the-art German model, a major improvement which many American medical schools did not make until after the 1910 Flexner Report.

1887 -- Professor of Medicine Henry Darwin Didama, M.D. (1823-1905) becomes Dean. In the 1870s he was the leader of the movement at Syracuse University toward three-year graded medical instruction, systematic medical research, and rigorous clinical training.

1896 -- The medical school moves into a new building at 309 South McBride Street.

1901 -- Halbert S. Steensland, M.D. (1872-1925), Director of the Pathological Laboratory, arranges for students to participate in the microscopic analysis of morbid laboratory specimens at the House of the Good Shepherd, the Episcopal hospital on Marshall Street.

1905 -- Gaylord P. Clark, M.D. 1880 (1856-1907) becomes Dean.

1905 -- Syracuse University purchases the Yates Castle estate and fourteen acres on Irving Avenue. Today it is the site of much of the SUNY Upstate Medical University campus. Yates Castle itself, built in 1852, was torn down in 1954, but a portion of the outer wall remains along Irving Avenue in front of Weiskotten Hall and the Health Sciences Library.

1908 -- John L. Heffron, M.D. 1881 (1851-1924) becomes Dean.

1910 -- Despite its small library, its loose alliance with Syracuse University, and its constant struggles to maintain financial support, Syracuse University College of Medicine survives the Flexner Report, which is responsible for the demise of dozens of medical schools not meeting its standards of laboratory-based instruction, clinical diversity, and financial stability. Its survival is mostly thanks to the vision and efforts of Didama, Elsner, and Van Duyn.

1914 -- The Syracuse Free Dispensary and City Health Department Clinic opens in a new building on Fayette Street, adjacent to the medical school.

1915 -- Syracuse University buys the House of the Good Shepherd from the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York for $76,000, and thus for the first time has its own teaching hospital.

1925 -- After serving as Acting Dean for three years, pathologist Herman Gates Weiskotten, M.D. '09 (1884-1972), becomes Dean. He holds this post until 1951 and brings the College of Medicine through the difficult depression years of the 1930s into the modern medical world.

June 4, 1934 -- Harvey Cushing, M.D. (1869-1939), the world's foremost neurosurgeon, gives the keynote address at the centennial celebration of the medical school and acknowledges the value of Syracuse University's contribution to the general development of American medical education: "What is historically important is that your school here at Syracuse was the first in New York State and the second in the country [behind only Harvard] to replace the traditional but outworn order of things by progressive exercises for nine months in the year over a period of three years a programme to which other schools quickly followed suit."

1934 -- Dean Weiskotten, appointed by the AMA Council on Medical Education and Hospitals, designs and leads the first full inspection of American medical schools since the Flexner Report. He is away from Syracuse for most of the next two years making this survey. His team finds about 20 of the 89 American and Canadian schools below accepted standards. Before this survey, only 66 of the 79 American schools had full four-year programs; but after the survey, they all do.

September 29, 1936 -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt lays the cornerstone of the new College of Medicine building, now known as Weiskotten Hall.

Spring 1941 -- Professor of Orthopedics Richard S. Farr, M.D. (1890-1977), organizes the U.S. Army 52nd General Hospital. The unit is commissioned on September 1, 1942, and serves with distinction in the European Theatre of Operations.

June 1, 1950 -- Syracuse University sells its medical school to the State University of New York, which re-establishes it as the SUNY College of Medicine at Syracuse.

1951 -- Founder of the Department of Neurosurgery Arthur D. Ecker, M.D., Ph.D., publishes The Normal Cerebral Angiogram, the first American book on cerebral angiography.

January 1953 -- Because of its close relations with the University Hospital of the Good Shepherd and other clinical facilities, and because there are plans to begin offering other degrees besides the M.D., SUNY College of Medicine at Syracuse changes its name to SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

June 1953 -- Julius B. Richmond, M.D., begins a seventeen-year term as Professor of Pediatrics. In 1971 he became Chair of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and in 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointed him U.S. Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

1956 -- Professor of Otolaryngology Gordon D. Hoople, M.D. 1919 (1895-1973), begins a three-year term as President of the American Board of Otolaryngology. Other highlights of his career included Chairman of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees and founder of the Hearing and Speech Center at Syracuse University.

September 1957 -- Carlyle F. Jacobsen, Ph.D. (1902-1974), assumes the new position of President of the Upstate Medical Center. Prior to this, the Dean of the College of Medicine was the head of campus administration.

September 1959 -- The School of Nursing admits its first class.

1961 -- Professor of Psychiatry Thomas Szasz, M.D., publishes The Myth of Mental Illness, a best-selling work which earns him an international reputation as a libertarian philosopher of medicine.

1962 -- Husband and wife pharmacologists Jay Tepperman, M.D., and Helen M. Tepperman, Ph..D., publish the first of five editions of Metabolic and Endocrine Physiology, a standard textbook for three decades.

1965 -- The School of Allied Health Professions opens, known later as the College of Health Related Professions and today as the College of Health Professions.

May 24, 1965 -- Dedication of University Hospital.

1968 -- Lewis W. Bluemle, Jr., M.D., is inaugurated as the second President.

1968 -- SUNY Upstate Medical Library becomes the site of the world's first interactive online bibliographic retrieval service when Irwin H. Pizer (1934-1991), Library Director from 1964 to 1969, institutes the SUNY Biomedical Communication Network on campus. By 1976 this network had evolved into the well-known commercial network, Bibliographic Retrieval Services, later BRS Online, now part of Ovid Technologies, owned by Wolters Kluwer.

1972 -- Professor of Medicine William J. Williams, M.D., publishes the first edition of Hematology, now the standard textbook in its field.

1975 -- Richard P. Schmidt, M.D., is inaugurated as the third President.

1981 -- Professor of Neurosurgery Robert B. King, M.D., founds the Research Foundation of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

1985 -- Professor of Pathology John Bernard Henry, M.D., is inaugurated as the fourth President. He is best known as editor of Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, now in its twenty-first edition, first published 1908 as A Manual of Clinical Diagnosis by James C. Todd, M.D. (1874-1928).

February 1986 -- In order to reflect more accurately the diversity of services offered, SUNY Upstate Medical Center changes its name to SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse (SUNY HSC).

December 1986 -- Patricia J. Numann, M.D. '65, founds the Comprehensive Breast Care Program, now called the Breast Care Center.

1993 -- Gregory L. Eastwood, M.D., is inaugurated as the fifth President.

1994 -- SUNY HSC personnel begin to use the new East Wing of University Hospital according to a phased occupancy plan, bringing to Central New York state-of-the-art medical and surgical units for the concentrated care of burns, emergencies, cardiopulmonary diseases, and neurological disorders, and as well as expanded facilities for endoscopy, imaging, and other diagnostic procedures.

December 1995 -- Joslin Center for Diabetes opens under the direction of Ruth Weinstock, M.D.

December 1995 -- The Health Sciences Library moves without interruption of service into a separate four-floor building attached to Weiskotten Hall.

July 19, 1996 -- Ground is broken for the Institute for Human Performance, Rehabilitation, and Biomedical Research.

April 7, 1997 -- University Health Care Center opens, bringing many outpatient services together in a single location.

October 8, 1997 -- The University Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is named after Frank A. Oski, M.D. (1932-1996), Professor and Chair of Pediatrics from 1972 to 1985, author of the controversial Don't Drink Your Milk: The Frightening New Medical Facts about the World's Most Overrated Nutrient in 1977, founder of the journal Contemporary Pediatrics in 1984, and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1996.

September 8, 1999 -- The name is changed from SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse to SUNY Upstate Medical University.

August 2000 -- The Center for Bioethics and Humanities is founded, directed by Kathy Faber-Langendoen, M.D.

2001 -- The College of Medicine inaugurates a new medical curriculum, reorganizing the basic science curriculum into an organ-based format, creating a Practice of Medicine course to teach clinical skills and provide patient contact immediately in the first year, emphasizing hands-on and small-group learning, de-emphasizing traditional lectures, and reducing the number of contact hours to allow for more study time.

2002-2003 -- Capital improvements, construction, and remodelling enrich the appearance, facilities, and capacities of Upstate Medical University. Weiskotten Hall especially benefits, with a new student lounge, refurbished auditoriums and classrooms, new multimillion dollar anatomy and microbiology labs, and a new Institute for Cardiovascular Research.

September 2003 -- Plans are approved to add five floors to the East Wing of University Hospital, including a new Children's Hospital on the top two floors.