The first University-sponsored School of Medicine was established in 1879, though there is evidence that medical instruction was given in Chapel Hill before the Civil War.
Dr. Thomas W. Harris, an honor graduate of the Class of 1859 at the University of North Carolina, was dean and professor of anatomy. His only faculty colleagues were Professor A. Fletcher Redd in chemistry and Professor Frederic W. Simonds in botany and physiology. Courses in anatomy formed the basis of the two-year curriculum. Dr. Harris introduced students to clinical medicine and surgery through the free clinics he established in the community. Dr. Harris received no salary from the University and therefore maintained a large medical practice. When the burden of his practice and teaching responsibilities became too great, he resigned in 1885 to devote his time to the practice of medicine in the growing town of Durham. At that time 37 students had attended the School of Medicine.
The school reopened in 1890 with Dr. Richard H. Whitehead as dean and professor of anatomy. His ability as a scientist and teacher established the academic reputation of the school during the next 15 years. The school’s reputation has persisted through succeeding generations of faculty.
In 1902 University President Francis P. Venable, along with Drs. Whitehead and Hubert A. Royster, Sr., of Raleigh, established the University Medical Department at Raleigh. Dr. Royster was appointed dean and professor of gynecology. Despite the inability of the state of North Carolina and the University to adequately finance this expanded operation, the leading physicians of Raleigh, many of whom were already on the faculty of the Leonard Medical College of Shaw University, provided clinical instruction for junior and senior students in the Rex, St. Agnes, and Dorothea Dix Hospitals and the Raleigh Dispensary. In 1910 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching published the Flexner Report, which recommended standards for medical schools. Because the University could not afford to upgrade both the preclinical and clinical programs to meet the recommendations in this report, the University Medical Department in Raleigh closed.
Dr. Isaac Hall Manning, the first professor of physiology and biological chemistry, succeeded Dr. Whitehead as dean in 1905. A member of the medical Class of 1895, Dr. Manning and a few able colleagues strengthened the basic science departments and improved the preclinical science teaching programs. The reputation of the school continued to grow and increasing numbers of students were accepted for transfer to the junior class of leading medical schools in the East, South, and Midwest. Many of these students returned to practice in North Carolina. At the time of the medical school’s expansion to a four-year program in 1954, approximately twenty-five percent of the physicians practicing in North Carolina had attended the state’s two-year medical school program.
Caldwell Hall, the first University building planned with adequate laboratories, classrooms, and library space for medical instruction, was completed in 1912. Here the School of Medicine functioned until 1938, when it was moved to MacNider Hall, a new and enlarged basic science building.
In 1923 and again in 1937 state commissions were appointed to study the advisability of expanding the school’s program to four years. Although the University, the medical alumni, and many leading citizens of the state actively supported these efforts, the lack of funds and the controversy over the location of the expanded school foiled these early attempts. During this period Duke University and Wake Forest College established four-year programs.
Dr. Walter Reece Berryhill became dean of the School of Medicine in 1941. His energy, wisdom, and foresight, coupled with the support of his able faculty colleagues, ushered in an era of progress for medical education in North Carolina.
In 1947 the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated funds for the construction of the 400-bed North Carolina Memorial Hospital, for a modest enlargement of the medical science building, and for educational and dormitory facilities for a school of nursing. This brought to a successful conclusion the statewide effort proposed by Governor J. Melville Broughton in 1944 to improve the health care of North Carolina through state (and subsequently federal) financial aid for constructing needed hospitals and health centers, increasing medical and health manpower, and expanding The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine’s program to four years.
The North Carolina Memorial Hospital (renamed in 1989 as the UNC Hospitals) opened in 1952 and the forty-eight members of the first class in the newly expanded program of the School of Medicine received their M.D. degrees in 1954. An exceptionally able group of clinical department chairs and faculty together with strengthened basic science departments established the school on a firm basis. The first chairs of the clinical departments were Dr. Kenneth Brinkhous in Pathology, Dr. Charles H. Burnett in Medicine, Dr. Edward Curnen in Pediatrics, Dr. George Ham in Psychiatry, Dr. Robert A. Ross in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Nathan A. Womack in Surgery, and Dr. Ernest Wood in Radiology.
Dr. Isaac M. Taylor succeeded Dr. Berryhill, who retired from the deanship in 1964, and began the development of community clinical education programs. Dean Taylor instituted many changes as faculty committees carefully reevaluated the school’s curriculum in light of the many changes that had occurred in medical education and the complex roles that physicians were required to fulfill. A new interdisciplinary and more flexible curriculum and a pass-fail, end-of-year examination system began in 1967. The Morehead Fellowship Program in medicine also was established.
During the late 1960s the School of Medicine and the UNC Hospitals expanded with funds obtained through state, federal, and private sources. Projects resulting from these efforts included Berryhill Hall (basic medical sciences teaching facility), the Brinkhous-Bullitt Building (preclinical education building), the Burnett-Womack Building (clinical science building), and the Bed Tower and Spencer Love Clinics in the North Carolina Memorial Hospital.
In mid-1971 the General Assembly approved legislation to create a board of directors for the North Carolina Memorial Hospital and to separate the hospital organizationally from the administration of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Taylor remained as dean of the School of Medicine until June 30, 1971. He was succeeded on September 1, 1971 by Dr. Christopher C. Fordham III.
The partnership between the UNC Hospitals and the School of Medicine enhances the learning environment while maintaining the highest standards for patient care. The relationship between the School of Medicine and the UNC Hospitals is both strong and collegial. The UNC Hospitals’ board of directors appointed Mr. John Danielson as the first general director in January 1972, and Mr. Dennis Barry succeeded him in 1975. Mr. Eric Munson was named as the hospital’s executive director in 1980 following Mr. Barry’s resignation. Dr. William Easterling was associate dean for clinical affairs until 1989 and was followed in this position by Dr. Stanley Mandel from 1989 to 2002. Currently Dr. Brian Goldstein serves as executive associate dean for clinical affairs and chief of staff. Mr. Gary Park became president of UNC Hospitals in 2004.
Dr. Taylor established strong community-hospital relationships, one of his most important legacies. Health manpower legislation in 1971 created funding for the development of the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program, establishing three AHECs in North Carolina. The $8.5 million represented the largest federal grant and, at that time, the largest single contract to date in the University’s history. Mr. Glenn Wilson, the first director, played a major role in establishing the AHEC Program.
The original AHEC contract had envisioned a program that would eventually become statewide. In late 1973 the University of North Carolina Board of Governors adopted a statewide plan for medical and health education and submitted it to the North Carolina General Assembly. As a result, the General Assembly appropriated $28.2 million in 1974 to strengthen and expand the AHEC Program. Under the leadership of Dr. Christopher C. Fordham, the program developed into a statewide system of nine AHECs in cooperation with the other UNC-Chapel Hill health science schools (Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health); the Duke University Medical Center; the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University; and the East Carolina University health science schools (Medicine, Allied Health, Social Work, and Nursing).
Each AHEC accepts the responsibility for community-based health science student rotations and health manpower development in a defined geographic area. The partnership between the academic medical centers and the communities of North Carolina has provided high-quality, easily accessible education for health professionals in all one hundred counties. This imaginative regional program of health professional education significantly helps address North Carolina’s problem of access to good medical care through better distribution of physicians and other health professionals, both geographically and by specialty. Dr. Eugene S. Mayer succeeded Mr. Wilson as director in 1978. As a result of Dr. Mayer’s strong leadership before his death in 1994, the AHEC Program was poised to continue to contribute to the major changes that were underway in the health care arena. Dr. Thomas Bacon was appointed Director of the AHEC Program in August 1996.
Dr. Fordham assumed the additional responsibilities of vice chancellor of Health Affairs in 1977. He relinquished his duties as dean of the School of Medicine in June 1979 and continued as vice chancellor until March 1980 when he became chancellor of the University. Dr. Stuart Bondurant succeeded Dr. Fordham as dean of the School of Medicine in 1979. He assumed his duties just as a great decade in the school’s history culminated with accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
Dr. Bondurant’s priorities during his tenure as dean reflected his commitment to continuing and enhancing the tradition of excellence in education at the School of Medicine. Dr. Bondurant appointed a faculty curriculum review committee and established a Student Research and Academic Enrichment Program. A substantial number of medical students now carry out research with a faculty mentor, with some of their research leading to publication.
Innovative partnerships between the School of Medicine and other institutions, including University programs, industry, and state government, were also hallmarks of Dr. Bondurant’s years as dean. The Department of Nutrition, for example, is the first in the country to be shared between a medical school and a school of public health.
Under Dean Bondurant’s leadership, a major curriculum review reached a successful conclusion with full faculty approval in the spring of 1983. With the dramatic changes in the health care arena, another curriculum review began in 1992, charged to design an educational program that was dynamic and perpetually responsive to the changing health care environment. That curriculum reflected the goals of faculty and students for the education of physicians in the twenty-first century, giving special emphasis to education for practice as a generalist physician and for practice in the ambulatory care setting. The curriculum also emphasized teaching students and young physicians to adapt to changing needs, including understanding and using new technologies and incorporating health promotion and disease prevention into their practices.
During Dr. Bondurant’s tenure, the School of Medicine greatly increased the scope of its activities and reinforced its commitment to excellence. Five new departments were added during his 15-year tenure as dean: Biomedical Engineering, Emergency Medicine, Nutrition, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Radiation Oncology. Many new centers, institutes, and specialized programs were created and nurtured, from the Ambulatory Care Center and Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center to the Program on Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and Gene Therapy Center, the latter developing from initiatives originally begun by Dean Berryhill and sustained by Drs. Brinkhous and Graham and others. Dr. Bondurant remained as dean until July 1994.
Dr. Michael A. Simmons served as dean from July 1994 to July 1996. Under his leadership, a Department of Orthopaedics was established. Two new centers were established: the UNC Center for Cardiovascular Disease, and the UNC Neuroscience Center, which incorporates the former Brain and Development Research Center and focuses on the neurosciences more broadly.
At Dr. Simmons’ resignation in July 1996, Dr. Bondurant returned as interim dean for one year during which time the School was accorded re-accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education for the maximum seven-year period.
Dr. Jeffrey L. Houpt was named vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine in June 1997. In 1998 the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation that established the UNC Health Care System, bringing under one entity UNC Hospitals and the clinical programs of the School of Medicine. Dr. Houpt was named Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Munson’s title changed to President of the 650-bed UNC Hospitals, and he was named Chief Operating Officer of the UNC Health Care System. In 2000 Rex Healthcare in Raleigh became a wholly-owned subsidiary of UNC Health Care, while retaining its identity and authorities subject to ratification by the UNC Health Care Board of Directors. The creation and expansion of this integrated health care system has better positioned North Carolina's only state-owned university hospital to operate competitively in a rapidly changing health care environment.
During Dr. Houpt’s tenure, the school continued its deep commitment to service in education, research, and patient care to serve the people of North Carolina and beyond. In addition, the School enhanced its already high degree of collegiality and willingness to work together, and was recognized nationally as a leader in diversity and in its outreach to the State.
The medical education program was enhanced through new teaching and assessment methods, minority student recruitment programs, and an enhanced admissions process. A department chair-led committee undertook a comprehensive review of the curriculum to set priorities for curricular outcomes, and recommendations are being implemented.
Dr. Houpt recruited twenty department chairs and five center directors between 1997-2004 to ensure the School's leadership into the coming decades. During this time, the School of Medicine established two new academic departments and five new centers: Department of Genetics, Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, UNC Center for Infectious Disease, Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center, Center for Maternal and Infant Health, the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, and the Carolina Cardiovascular Biology Center. The Department of Genetics and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, have fostered faculty collaborations from the entire university. Medical school funding from the National Institutes of Health more than doubled during these years, exceeding $213 million in fiscal year 2004.
Dr. Houpt initiated planning for additional growth and revitalization of the physical plant. The State’s voters approved a bond issue for higher education in November 2000, and the School launched new construction and renovation plans for one million square feet of existing medical school space, including the Neuroscience Research Building, the Bioinformatics Building, the Biomolecular Research Building and, at UNC Hospitals, the North Carolina Women’s and Children’s Hospitals.
Dr. William L. Roper was named chief executive officer of the University of North Carolina Health Care System in March 2004. He serves concurrently as dean of the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill. As CEO, vice chancellor, and dean, Dr. Roper oversees an integrated health care system that includes its top-ranked public medical school and modern hospitals for children, women, neurological and psychiatric patients, and general adult patient care. In the overarching role of CEO, he reports directly to the President of the UNC System. As UNC-Chapel Hill vice chancellor and dean, he reports to the chancellor.
Under Dr. Roper's leadership, UNC Health Care has expanded its efforts to provide care to people throughout North Carolina. With the purchase of Chatham Hospital in Siler City, the university gained a major presence in this rural, largely Latino community. In the east, UNC Health Care is teaming up with the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center at East Carolina University to share best practices and with Manteo’s oncologists to provide telemedicine consultations so that cancer patients can receive care without leaving the coast.
Dr. Roper also has overseen UNC Health Care's efforts to devote more research and clinical space to cancer care. The N.C. General Assembly established the University Cancer Research Fund in August 2007 with an initial allocation of $25 million. The Fund eventually will grow to the equivalent of a $1 billion endowment. The money is used to create state-of-the art research labs and to support UNC cancer researchers working on better ways to understand, detect, and treat the disease. In recent years, the Fund has supported a DNA analysis that might match breast tumors to the most effective chemotherapy drugs, a study seeking the genetic markers of nicotine addiction, and the application of nanotechnology to imaging devices. By 2009, the Fund was providing $50 million a year to foster discovery, innovation, and delivery of new cancer treatments.
The Genetic Medicine Building, completed in 2008, is the largest and most sophisticated research building ever built at UNC-Chapel Hill. It is occupied by the departments of genetics, biochemistry and biophysics, and pharmacology and supports laboratories, classrooms and offices for the School of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy. The building is also the home of the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, where faculty and researchers from the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, Department of Chemistry and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center work together to create therapies targeted to specific cancers and other diseases.
In August 2009, the first patients began receiving care at the NC Cancer Hospital, a 50-bed, 7-story hospital that serves as the clinical home of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Gov. Beverly Perdue, members of the N.C. General Assembly and other distinguished guests attended the hospital's dedication in September 2009. The hospital provides a central place for cancer care, research, and teaching, enabling UNC Health Care to better serve patients and their families. The hospital has triple the space of the previous cancer facility, allowing for expansion of multidisciplinary clinics, providing patients more opportunities to see a range of providers, and giving School of Medicine students more hands-on training. It is the only public cancer center in the state.
The UNC Health Care System began construction in 2008 on the new Imaging Research Building. Once completed, the building will house the Biomedical Research Imaging Center and serve as a state resource for handling the acquisition, processing, analysis, storage and retrieval of scientific images. The building also will provide a research space for scientists across campus who specialize in imaging and cancer treatment.
The School of Medicine remains committed to scholarship and the scientific medicine of the present and future. In 2006, the School of Medicine Academy of Educators was founded to promote excellence in teaching. By 2010, the Academy supported more than 130 fellows, all of whom had devoted their careers to teaching future physicians.
As the academic medical center has grown in size and complexity, it maintains its strong tradition of delivering the best medical care with sensitivity, compassion and genuine interest in people and their families. The School of Medicine’s primary teaching hospital, UNC Hospitals, is dedicated to delivering quality health care and outstanding service while maintaining its obligation and capacity to keep clinical care at the cutting edge of medical science.
With this balance of efforts, the School of Medicine continues its tradition of service for the benefit of the health and medical care of the citizens of North Carolina and the nation.