Celebrate the 150th anniversary of U-M’s first hospital!

December 16, 2019  //  FOUND IN: News,

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, something extraordinary happened at the University of Michigan. Its effects have reverberated down through history — not only on campus, but across the state and nation.

The first university-owned hospital opened in this house in 1869. The building was formerly owned by a professor.

In December 1869, the first patients checked in to the university’s first hospital. It wasn’t a fancy facility — just 20 beds in a converted former professor’s house on North University Avenue, where the Chemistry Building now stands.

Its patients had to travel across the Diag, to the Medical School building built 20 years before, to have an operation or examination by a professor with hundreds of medical students looking on.

But its opening marked the first time an American university had run a hospital, adding patient care to its missions of medical education and research. The birth of the academic medical center now known as Michigan Medicine began a movement that spread to universities across the country and accelerated medical innovation.

Pavilions were added to the original hospital in 1876.

A celebration of that 150th birthday begins today, and will continue through most of 2020, marking many of the medical and life sciences milestones and achievements that have happened at U-M and helped transform care everywhere.

A new timeline of historical events has just launched on the Michigan Medicine website, along with links to resources to explore U-M’s medical history further and a new overview video, which can be viewed above.

There’s also a video of a recent lecture by Joel Howell, M.D., Ph.D., co-author of the 2017 book Medicine at Michigan: A History of the University of Michigan Medical School at the Bicentennial and the Elizabeth Farrand Collegiate Professor in Medical History, as well as a professor of internal medicine, history, and health management and policy.

Throughout the coming months, new stories and social media posts will bring Michigan Medicine’s history to life, linked by the hashtag #michmed150 on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Anyone at the university interested in receiving updates when new stories or updates are available may join an email list.

Michigan Medicine faculty, staff, retirees, alumni and patients will be invited to share their memories, and interact with historical content, too. Units within Michigan Medicine can tap into the celebration by noting events in their own past — all have “firsts” or major national contributions of their own.

Some key facts about Michigan Medicine’s history:

  • The Medical School was founded in 1848 and admitted its first students in fall 1850, holding classes in a newly constructed building on the Diag where the Randall Laboratory now stands.
  • U-M was the first university to make its medical school professors part of the main faculty, paving the way for them to advocate for the creation of a hospital so their students could have better access to learning from observing the care of patients.
  • Female medical students were admitted starting in 1870 — the first ones to attend a major American medical school.
  • The first biomedical research laboratories at U-M, used to teach and explore chemistry and the germ theory of disease, were built in the late 1800s.
Catherine Street Hospital.
  • As the number of patients grew rapidly, new wings called pavilions were added on to the rear of the original hospital in 1876, funded by grants from the state and city.
  • The entire patient care operation moved to new brick buildings on Catherine Street in 1891, though medical education and research remained in buildings on or near the Diag until the mid-20th century.
  • Famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn designed the next U-M hospital, opened in 1925 and later known as “Old Main.” It was the largest and most technologically advanced hospital in the country.
“Old Main” Hospital, designed by Albert Kahn.
  • The Women’s Hospital opened in 1950, and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital opened in 1969 — both were combined into a new building opened in 2011.
  • The current University Hospital opened in 1986, with the Taubman Center attached.
  • The reach of U-M care grew rapidly throughout Michigan in the past two decades, through U-M-run centers and affiliations with other health systems.
  • Ground was recently broken for a new inpatient tower for advanced adult care, at the corner of Ann St. and Zina Pitcher Place. It’s set to open in 2024.

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