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Nathan Smith Davis, A Medical School Founder

In recognition of the start of the new academic year at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, which officially launches with the celebration of Founders’ Day in mid-August, we share a series of biographies of our school’s founders.   Believing that more rigorous education and training, with exacting standards and a longer course of study, was needed for those aspiring to become physicians, Dr. Nathan Smith Davis and five like-minded colleagues developed a more challenging curriculum in the new medical department at Lind University in Chicago. Although Lind was short-lived, the medical department survived as Chicago Medical College and today is called Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.   Nathan Smith Davis was born in Chenango County, New York, in 1817, where he lived and worked on a farm until he was 16 years old. At the age of 17 he began the study of medicine under Dr. Daniel Clark. Soon after he graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York with a thesis on animal temperament. He later began practicing medicine in New York City.   In 1841 he was awarded the prize from the Medical Society of the State of New York for his analyses of then-recent discoveries of the physiology of the nervous system. He was later awarded a prize from the State Agricultural Society of New York for his textbook on agricultural chemistry. He was an active member...

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Northwestern’s First Four Female Medical School Graduates

In honor of National Women’s History Month in March, the Galter Health Sciences Library recognized the first four female Northwestern MD graduates following the initiation of co-education at the medical school in 1926. From the founding of the medical school in 1859, a debate concerning the admission of women had been questioned and tabled multiple times by the medical school faculty. A brief experiment allowing admittance for women occurred in the fall of 1869. The “Campaign for a Greater Northwestern” began in 1919, at which time the University purchased nine acres of land along Lake Michigan in the near north side Streeterville neighborhood. With the energies of then University President, Walter Dill Scott and a league of alumni, friends and faculty, plus major gifts from Mrs. A. Montgomery Ward and Miss Marjorie Montgomery Ward, a new medical center housing the dental and medical schools became a reality. The Medical Council was requested to state its policy on co-education by the University administration. With a slight majority vote, the announcement that women would be admitted was made on May 31, 1924, and the first women students registered in the fall of 1926. A quota of four women students was set for admission–four being the number needed for an anatomical dissecting team. Verna Anne Christophel, Elizabeth Adrienne Sirmay, Edna Mae Ward, and Frances Catherine Wynekoop began their medical studies. All except...

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