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History of the School of Medicine

School of Medicine history, radiology class

Layers of success

When the University of Kansas began offering a "Preparatory Medical Course" in 1880, the move was mostly symbolic - no clinical training was available and students had to complete their degrees elsewhere. Even when the School of Medicine officially opened on Sept. 6, 1905, and began providing instruction at the Bell Memorial Hospital in Rosedale, Kan., it lacked clinical facilities, an adequate budget and political support. But the new school did have an impressive corps of talented physician-educators, and their early presence proved to be a springboard toward long-term success.

After decades of disagreements about the school's location were resolved in 1922, the new School of Medicine opened in 1924 at its current location, 39th Street and Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kan.

By 1940, an infusion of New Deal programs helped the campus boom, adding nine large medical buildings. In 1948, Dean Franklin D. Murphy, MD, pitched a plan to state legislators. Under its terms, the Medical Center facilities would be vastly expanded and in return, the school would graduate 25 percent more doctors and encourage them to choose rural practice. The "Murphy Plan" launched a metamorphosis in the 1950s and 1960s, with even more campus growth, record enrollments, the highest operating budgets in the school's history and changes in curriculum. By 1962, all four years of medical school were taught in Kansas City.

As dean of the School of Medicine (1952-60) and KU chancellor (1960-69), Dr. W. Clarke Wescoe's tireless vision and loyalty laid the groundwork for the school's consistent national reputation for top quality education and research. Under his leadership, postgraduate medical education was expanded tremendously; mental health and treatment became a major priority; millions of dollars in grants funded research on cancer, heart disease, polio and other illnesses; and new teaching technology, such as endoscopic television cameras, was introduced.

In 1971, KU extended its reach in Kansas, establishing a community-based clinical campus in Wichita. 

In the new millennium, the school has continued layering successes, most notably with the 2007 opening of the $52 million Robert E. Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center, attracting millions in grant funding and some of the nation's top researchers. In 2008, the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation was established to hasten discovery and development of new drugs and medical devices. In 2011, a new campus opened in Salina, advancing the mission to produce primary-care doctors for underserved areas. 

Today, along with great strides come high expectations. Boasting a patient-centered curriculum and high-caliber physicians and researchers, the School of Medicine is committed to furthering its tradition of reaching the pinnacle of medical education in the United States -- always delivering quality instruction, innovative research and superb patient care.


Last modified: Sep 28, 2018