The foundation of the School of Medicine dates back to 1789 with the organization of the Medical Society of Baltimore and Baltimore physicians' awareness that their numbers were decreasing following the Revolutionary War. Foreseeing a potential opportunity for charlatans to "practice" the art of medicine, founders of the medical society began to train prospective physicians in their own homes, offering instruction in anatomy, surgery and chemistry. Soon faced with strong citizen protest of anatomical dissection, the physician-teachers petitioned the Maryland State Legislature to establish a college of medicine on a firm basis and under the protection of the law. A charter incorporating the College of Medicine of Maryland was approved by the Maryland General Assembly on December 18, 1807.
The fledgling College of Medicine of Maryland was in urgent need of a proper building, and a lottery was authorized-not to exceed $40,000-to benefit the medical college's building fund. Over the next 15 years, seven more lotteries were authorized to benefit the school. Dr. John Beale Davidge, a native Marylander trained in Scotland, became the first dean and took the chair in surgery. His founding faculty were Dr. James Cocke (anatomy and physiology), Mr. James Shaw (chemistry) and Dr. Nathaniel Potter (theory and practice of medicine). From Col. John Eager Howard, a Revolutionary War hero and doctors' first anatomical theater in violent opposition to the dissection of human cadavers.
From the school's very beginning there was strong emphasis on bedside teaching. The first class of seven received clinical instruction at the Baltimore Almshouse, a warehouse, a theater and infirmary for the poor.
Completed in 1812, Davidge Hall was built by Robert Carey Long, Sr., and modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. The first classes were held in the new building in 1813, the same year the College of Medicine of Maryland became the University of Maryland. In addition to its two expansive circular amphitheaters constructed one atop the other, Davidge Hall was built with dissecting cubbyholes, secret stairways and hidden exits that afforded early students and their professors safe passage from angry mobs. It is said that the 1812 British bombardment of Fort McHenry was viewed from the veranda of Davidge Hall, while in the harbor a few miles away Francis Scott Key was writing the "Star Spangled Banner." Davidge Hall was meticulously renovated in the early 1980's and recognized as a National Historic Place. In 1998 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The Baltimore Infirmary, forerunner of the University of Maryland Hospital, was built opposite Davidge Hall in 1823, on the site of the present Baltimore Student Union. It was the first hospital founded by a medical school for the express purpose of clinical instruction. It was also the site of the first intramural residency program established in the United States. Senior medical students lived in the hospital while helping to care for patients. The building was still in active use until 1973, when its clinics were moved into the newly constructed north-wing addition to the University of Maryland Hospital (circa 1934) and the old building razed.
In curriculum development, the University of Maryland School of Medicine enjoys a long and proud tradition as an innovative leader. Maryland was the first school to recognize the value of the basic sciences. In 1800, Dr. John Crawford was the first to vaccinate Baltimoreans against smallpox. As early as 1810, he had presented evidence of the contagious character of tuberculosis. The gift of Dr. Crawford's personal library became the nucleus of Maryland's extensive medical library.
In 1833 the school introduced the first preventive medicine course. The techniques of auscultation and percussion were taught at the School of Medicine for the first time in Baltimore as early as 1841, and in 1844 Dr. David Stewart, the first professor of pharmacy in the United States, initiated his lectures at Maryland. In 1848, Maryland became the first school to require anatomical dissection, followed six years later by the introduction of compulsory courses in gross and microscopic pathology. Compulsory courses in experimental physiology and microscopy were introduced six years later. A milestone in cancer research occurred in 1853, when Maryland's Dr. Francis Donaldson became the first person in America to advocate biopsy and microscopic diagnosis of malignancy. Maryland was the first to establish chairs in the diseases of women and children (1867) and diseases of the eye and ear (1873).
Mergers with the Baltimore Medical College in 1913 and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1915 enabled the school to expand its clinical facilities and faculty. Early in the twentieth century, Drs. James Rowland and Louis Douglas initiated off-site obstetrical care and home delivery, prenatal clinics and an Rh blood-typing laboratory, significantly improving infant and maternal health.
The School of Medicine has had its share of medical breakthroughs, including in more recent decades the first successful antibiotic treatment of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the first cure for typhoid fever and the first laparoscopic ulcer surgery. In 1967, the school began one of the first formalized family practice residency programs in the country. In 1994, Maryland became the first medical school in the nation to integrate medical informatics into its curriculum.
The R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, which opened in 1961, serves as a worldwide model for emergency medical treatment. The University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center is a strong participant in new drug development and research, and virtually every important drug used in oncology has been tested in this program.
Today's University of Maryland School of Medicine is an exciting, vibrant institution where medical history continues to be written.