Levy Mayer, Weiboldt Hall and Ward Hall, c1927.
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine was born in Chicago over 150 years ago. We’ve contributed greatly to medical discovery and education in that time, as well as contributed to the growth and change of the city we are proud to call home. Explore our history timeline and get to know some of our founders and groundbreakers here.
This storied history starts with the chartering of Rush Medical College in 1837 and follows various affiliations and permutations until 1870, when Chicago Medical College signed the agreement to become Northwestern University’s Department of Medicine. Eventually that department would become a school in the university. During that period of time, one stalwart constant was Nathan Smith Davis, who assumed presidency of Chicago Medical College in 1866, became the first medical school dean in 1870 and led the school until 1899.
Chicago campus, c1930s.
The timeline follows the medical school’s growth and expansion through the 20th century, including campus development, the establishment of some of its most treasured traditions (e.g. Founders’ Day), important leadership transitions, and advancements and improvements to the educational requirements. As the Feinberg School of Medicine (renamed in honor of Reuben Feinberg in 2002) entered the 21st century, a new era of growth and renewed emphasis on research began. New affiliate hospitals and research buildings, as well as a renewed curriculum, have been highpoints in these years of evolution. Currently, the timeline ends with the 2015 announcement of the plans for the new Louis A. Simpson and Kimberley K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center, but we look forward to adding many more important milestones in the upcoming years of progress.
Source: Northwestern University Medical School: 1859-1979, a pioneer in educational reform, by Leslie B. Arey.
Did you live in Abbott Hall? Share your experiences with us in the discussion section below!
Since its dedication in 1940, Northwestern’s Abbott Hall has served as housing for students and the military, research and administrative space, and a place for social gatherings.
Abbott Hall main lounge, 1940.
Located on the corner of Lake Shore Drive and Superior Street, Abbott Hall was originally designed as a dormitory for students, staff and faculty of the professional schools on the Chicago campus. Built at a cost of $1.75 million, the 20-story building was believed to be the tallest structure in the world used exclusively as a college dormitory. It was made possible by a gift from the Clara A. Abbott Foundation in honor of Dr. Wallace C. Abbott, founder of Abbott Laboratories, and his wife Clara. The Abbott Foundation gave the gift to the university for the purpose of advancing “medical, chemical and surgical sciences.”
Abbott Hall, 1940
The building was constructed of Indiana limestone and designed by architect James Gamble Rogers to be similar to the “modified gothic” style he had used in a number of other buildings on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. It had a capacity of approximately 800 students in single and double occupancy rooms, as well as a few kitchenette apartments and penthouse suites. It also had four dining facilities, shops, a bowling alley, exercise rooms, a library and lounges on each residential floor. It was built to offer students a more “residential club” experience.
In the summer of 1940, with war raging in Europe and the likelihood of American involvement apparent, university president Franklyn B. Snyder made a commitment to national defense by accommodating a Naval training unit on the Chicago campus in newly built Abbott Hall. Through a contract with the federal government, Northwestern, along with Columbia University and Notre Dame, became one of the three schools to support a Midshipmen’s School to train and produce Naval officers.
Midshipman exit Abbott Hall under the watchful eye of a duty officer.
Abbott Hall was formally opened and dedicated on October 20, 1940. The building was already being used by university students and midshipmen enrolled in the V-7 United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, which was renting classroom space and housing from Northwestern. Most candidates completed officer training through a three-month course. By 1941, military buildup for World War II was in full swing, and the entire building was given over to Navy use. Between 1940 and 1945, more than 20,000 midshipmen graduated from the program. Abbott Hall served as the center of military life, providing housing as well as space for recreational and social activities for the officers in training. One of the most famous graduates of the Midshipmen’s School was future president John F. Kennedy. After the war, the building went back to being used for university purposes.
Until 2012, University Housing maintained around 40 apartments in Abbott Hall, but it no longer has any housing on the Chicago campus. Today, the building is still a center of Chicago campus activity. It contains the campus bookstore, Wildcard Office, Bursar’s Office, Religious Life Center, Financial Aid, Women’s Center and Human Resources. In addition, ten floors are used at least in part by the Feinberg School of Medicine, providing space for the Department of Family and Community Medicine, the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine and Psychiatry labs, among others. Four other Northwestern schools also maintain a presence there.
A double room in Abbott Hall.
Many alumni remember their time spent living, working and playing in Abbott. It may no longer be home, but friendships and fond memories remain of living on the lake at Northwestern University.
Source: Abbott Hall, U.S.N.R.; the record of the United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, Abbott Hall, Northwestern University, September 1940-August 1945 by United States. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, Northwestern University; Fetridge, William Harrison, 1906- ed; published 1945.
The School of Pharmacy of Northwestern University opened its doors Oct. 1, 1886, was placed under the complete control of the University in 1891, changed facilities, underwent a number of curricular transitions, and graduated many students, until combining into the program at University of Illinois in June 1917. Though the duration of the program at Northwestern University was relatively brief, interest in the School of Pharmacy as a part of Northwestern University’s history remains to this day.
The official initiative favoring the establishment of a school of pharmacy in connection with Northwestern University was taken by the executive committee of the board of trustees at its regular meeting in April 1886. A resolution was then adopted. This action was taken upon the motion of Dr. David R. Dyche, a member of the board of trustees of the University and of its executive committee, and a pharmacist in active business in Chicago. Conferences were held with other prominent pharmacists and with men of experience in pharmaceutical educational work. The result was the incorporation of a school called Illinois College of Pharmacy and at the annual meeting of the board of trustees in June, the school thus incorporated was, by agreement with the incorporators, formally adopted as a department of Northwestern University. The school opened its doors Oct. 1, 1886 in quarters formerly occupied by the Library of the City of Chicago in the Dickey Building on the southwest corner of Lake and Dearborn Streets, where it remained for five years. The building had a lecture room seating two hundred, and four laboratories which together provided accommodations for two hundred and forty students working simultaneously. From 1893-1902, the school shared a building with the medical school on Dearborn Street, between 24th and 25th Street, and later was housed in the university’s “Professional Schools Building”, across the street from the original site in the Dickey Building.
Pharmacy School Lab ca 1899
Initially, the courses of instruction at Northwestern University’s school, election of its teachers, all educational requirements, and the conferring of degrees were placed under the direct supervision of the board of trustees and the president of the University. Administration of the school was entrusted to the special board of trustees of the School of Pharmacy, the members of which voluntarily assumed the task of providing for its adequate equipment and financial support until it should be securely established. In 1891 the University assumed complete control of the management of the School, retaining the members of its special board of trustees as an advisory executive committee and the school name became the School of Pharmacy of Northwestern University.
School enrollment and curriculum highlights
Attendance at the School of Pharmacy increased from 62 in 1886-87 to 316 by 1892. In 1893, attendance decreased when the school was moved from the center of the city to 24th and Dearborn Streets. In 1899, requirements for admission and graduation were made more rigorous. The course of instruction was lengthened to two annual school sessions of twenty-six weeks each, and annual attendance in 1899-1900 fell to 138. A 1901 ad in the Quarterly Bulletin of Northwestern University Medical School proudly announced: “It is the largest institution of its kind west of the Atlantic coast states.” (Q Bull Northwest Univ Med Sch. 1901 Jun; 3(1): 179.)
The Pharmacy School Library 1911-12
The 1910/1911 catalog highlighted that the school offered a scientific training in Pharmacy, Chemistry, and Drug and Food Analysis. There were also special courses for Drug Clerks. The 1911/1912 catalog mentioned that the value of the equipment used exclusively for the students of pharmacy was over $25,000 or “five times the amount required of the Registered Schools of Pharmacy” under the laws of New York. The two established college courses in pharmacy in the United States at that time were for the degree of Graduate in Pharmacy (Ph.G.) and the degree of Pharmaceutical Chemist (Ph.C.). At Northwestern, both courses were arranged so all work for the degree of Ph.G. could be completed in two years of six months each, and for the degree of Ph.C. in two years of nine months each, “provided the students do not divide their time between drug store employment and their college work, as is done by more than one-half of the students of pharmacy in this country.” The museum contained more than 2000 specimens of drugs, chemicals, pharmaceutical preparations, chemical and pharmaceutical apparatus and implements. The library possessed “one of the most valuable pharmaceutical reference libraries in this country” and contained all of the pharmacopoeias of the world with supplements to date. Fees and expenses were listed: a registration fee ($10), annual tuition fees ($100), breakage deposit ($10), a laboratory coupon ticket ($5), and a graduation fee ($10). The catalog also claimed that “[t]he physical, social and moral welfare of the students receive careful attention. The advantage of association with students of all the other schools of the University is great. The magnificent gymnasium building and the great athletic field bring many intercollegiate games to Northwestern and give the students opportunities to participate in and to witness the events under the most favorable conditions.”
The General Chemistry Lab at the Pharmacy School, 1912-13
In 1904-1905, School of Pharmacy entrance required completion of at least one year of high school. In 1909, the staff consisted of ten teachers and assistants, the classes in attendance came from all parts of the country, and alumni numbered 1,700. In 1912-1913, the course for the Degree of Graduate in Pharmacy was lengthened from three eighteen-week terms to two full scholastic years and the course for the Degree of Pharmaceutical Chemist was extended from two to three scholastic years. At the same time, the President’s Report indicated that the minimum admission requirement was advanced from one year of high school work to the completion of a four year high school course. By 1916-17, however, enrollment had dwindled to fifty-nine. The trustees decided that the university could no longer maintain the school. An arrangement was made to transfer the students and goodwill of the School of Pharmacy of Northwestern University to the School of Pharmacy of the University of Illinois. Since the school of pharmacy conducted in Chicago by the University of Illinois was offering an equivalent program, it was decided that “the two schools could be combined without loss of efficiency and without increased cost to either.” This was done in June 1917.
The Pharmacy School Class of 1900
During its years of operation, the School of Pharmacy of Northwestern graduated over 2000 students. It evolved and went through various curricular changes. Through the years, the school placed the education of pharmacists on a professional footing. Changes in entrance requirements were made, sometimes initiated by the university and sometimes following pharmacy education trends. Pharmacists today earn a PharmD degree. On its current web page devoted to “Pre-Pharmacy”, Northwestern University’s Academic Advising Center highlights educational requirements for today’s students who are planning to pursue a pharmacy degree: six to eight years (two to four years undergraduate education plus four years professional education at a college of pharmacy), as opposed to the early programs’ (such as Northwestern’s) requirements that applicants complete at least one year of high school prior to the two (later three) year programs. The majority of present programs accept students after three or more years of college and the completion of college course prerequisites; some pharmacy schools require or give preference to applicants with a bachelors (B.S./B.A.) degree.
Deans and alumni
Dean Oscar Oldberg
School of Pharmacy Dean Oscar Oldberg was educated in Europe and taught at other U.S. pharmacy schools before being associated with Northwestern University for over 25 years. He was on leave for two academic years due to ill health during which time Arthur Herbert Wilde served as Acting Dean. When Oscar Oldberg retired and became Dean Emeritus, Pharmacy School alumnus Charles Waggener Patterson (Ph.C.) served as Acting Dean for the 1912-1913 academic year. John Harper Long served as Dean from 1913 until 1917 when the school consolidated with University of Illinois. The papers of Oscar Oldberg can be found in University Archives, Evanston campus. This finding aid includes a biography that highlights his considerable professional achievements. Arthur Herbert Wilde was a historian and administrator as well as author of a 1905 university history used as a source for this historical synopsis. John Harper Long was a chemistry professor, who was associated with the university for thirty-seven years (he also taught in the medical school), and was a co-author of a chemistry textbook with Prof. Oldberg.
After graduation, many alumni continued their professional lives in the pharmaceutical field. They went on to work in and founded drug stores as well as drug and other manufacturing companies, and they patented inventions. But it was not necessarily expected that all would remain in the field. One school recruitment effort was notated as an annotation to a laboratory building photograph in the 1911/1912 catalog: “Many Pharmacy students find their training a large part of the preparation necessary for a Medical course.” Indeed, alumni changed their fields after graduation from the school and some continued their ties with the university. Here are two examples:
The Pharmacy School Class of 1896
The aforementioned Charles Waggener Patterson was not only an alumnus of the School of Pharmacy, but he also stayed to work at the university in various capacities until his retirement in 1940, decades after the school was closed. A news item about his retirement appeared in the Quarterly Bulletin of the Medical School (1940 Winter; 14(4): 315): “Charles Waggener Patterson retired from the service of the University at the close of the last school year. Born in Chicago in 1870, Mr. Patterson served the University since his graduation from the School of Pharmacy, Northwestern University in 1892. Since that time he has been Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dean of the School of Pharmacy, and Registrar of the Medical School, having been in the latter post since 1912.”
Another alumnus of the Pharmacy School, Dr. Herman L. Kretschmer (1879-1951), graduated from the school with a Ph.G. in 1900, then went on to graduate with high honors from Northwestern’s medical school in 1904, and was awarded an honorary DSc in 1944. He did post-graduate studies in Europe, served in World War I, and upon his return, remained in Chicago for the rest of his life. He was credited with being one of the first clinical professors to limit his work to urology. He taught at Rush Medical College, was a clinician at Children’s Memorial Hospital, and worked at other area hospitals. A prolific author of about 300 documents, he was a contributor to textbooks and also served as an elected and honorary officer of many local and national organizations, including the 1944-1945 term as president of the American Medical Association. A Galter Health Sciences Library website article in 2014 described Dr. Kretschmer’s accomplishments and highlighted a library display that featured his student notebooks from his days as both a pharmacy and medical student that had been donated to the library. (Members of Dr. Kretschmer’s extended family visited Galter Library’s Special Collections in November 2015 to celebrate his legacy and accomplishments.)
Northwestern University 1855 A History 1905, Arthur Herbert Wilde, New York: University Publishing Society, 1905.
Northwestern University: A History 1850-1975, Harold F. Williamson and Payson S. Wild, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, c. 1976.
Northwestern University: celebrating 150 years / Jay Pridmore. 1st ed. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2000.
Northwestern University: A History, Jay Pridmore, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, c.2012. Updated and expanded edition of Northwestern University: celebrating 150 years / Jay Pridmore. 1st ed. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2000.
Northwestern University Bulletin, General Catalogue of the School of Pharmacy [misc. years].
Alan Nelson, ’58 MD
When Alan R. Nelson, ’58 MD, graduated from Northwestern, he returned to his home state of Utah to embark on a busy career as an internist specializing in endocrinology. An idealist, though, he was not content to simply practice medicine: Nelson soon became a moving force in helping to shape national healthcare policy.
In 1971, he was chosen to head a Utah Medical Association (UMA) committee to develop a quality assurance mechanism for state medical care ‒ resulting in a grant to develop a statewide peer review program. This step became the first in a staircase of healthcare policy advising appointments. Five years later, he was elected UMA president, followed by a seat on the American Medical Association (AMA) board of trustees in 1977. A series of positions on various AMA committees culminated in Nelson serving as the organization’s president from 1989-90.
During his tenure as AMA president, he led the development of several initiatives including the Health Access America Program ‒ an initiative of the AMA to improve access to affordable, high-quality health care.
During much of his time as a mover and shaker in his profession, he retained his private practice in Salt Lake City. After his leadership position at the AMA, his medical-political career continued: from 1991-92, he was the World Medical Association President. He continued seeing patients until he became chief executive officer of the American Society of Internal Medicine (ASIM) in 1992. Following the merger of ASIM and the American College of Physicians (ACP), Nelson served as associate EVP/CEO of the merged organization until his semi-retirement in 2000, and as special advisor to the EVP/CEO of ACP until 2010.
Even in semi-retirement, Nelson barely slowed his pace. He held an appointment to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (which advises the United States Congress on Medicare policies around payment, quality and access to care) from 2000 to 2006. He has testified in hearings before Senate committees a well as the House Ways and Means and Commerce Committees. Nelson has also testified in hearings held by the FDA, Physician Payment Review Commission and the Practicing Physicians Advisory Council.
Dr. Nelson reads the blood pressure of Olive Woodward, his patient of 22 years. (1989 WR Magazine)
A member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (IOM), he has served on more than 15 study committees and roundtables, including the Committee on Redesigning Health Insurance Benefits, Payment and Performance Improvement Programs, and the Subcommittee on Quality Improvement Organizations’ Evaluation from 2004-06. Nelson was chair of the IOM Committee on Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Health Care and was a co-editor of the study report, “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care” (2003).
At the height of his policy making, Nelson had no regrets about his role being a voice for his fellow physicians. “Medicine truly is a rewarding profession,” commented Nelson in a spring 1989 Ward Rounds feature article. “And it will continue to be one into the next century ‒ if we can get past a couple of roadblocks and give the bright, idealistic young people now entering the profession what they need: the confidence to bring to bear scientific miracles and to put those miracles at our fingertips.”
In 2003, Nelson received the medical school’s Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award and in 2005, the Northwestern University Alumni Merit Award, among many other well-deserved accolades throughout his distinguished career in service to his profession.
Dr. Nelson was featured in the spring 1989 issue of Ward Rounds Magazine. Read the full article here.
Thomas E. Starzl, MD/PhD ’52, ’82 H, performed the world’s first successful human liver transplant at the University of Colorado (CU) in 1967. A pioneer in organ transplantation, Dr. Starzl advanced the field from refining the surgical principles that made it possible to insert a new liver into a human patient to introducing the use of immunosuppressants to prevent organ rejection.
While Dr. Starzl credited his mother, a nurse, with his initial interest in medicine, everything that led to his being known as the “Father of Transplantation” started at Northwestern University, he has said. During his years as a Markle Scholar in Medical Science and faculty member at the medical school (1959-61), he perfected in dogs the same liver transplant techniques he would later use on patients when an organ transplant was their only chance of survival. The path to discovery wasn’t easy, but Dr. Starzl would eventually refine two key surgical principals to achieving a successful liver transplant: the venovenous bypass and core cooling of the donor liver in Ringer’s solution. Venovenous bypass protects the venous beds of the intestine, kidneys and hindquarters from clotting or rupturing during placement of the new liver. Core cooling prevents the donor tissue from deterioration.
After graduating from Northwestern, this Iowa native completed a surgical internship at Johns Hopkins University. Surgical residencies followed at the University of Miami and the former VA Research Hospital in Chicago. Briefly serving on Northwestern’s faculty, he left for CU in 1962. While moving up the ranks from associate professor of surgery to full professor to chair of surgery there, Dr. Starzl and his team began overcoming some of the great challenges of the day in transplantation. First, he worked out the difficulties of immune intolerance in the transplantation of allogeneic (non-identical) human kidneys, performing one of the largest series of such transplants in 1962 and 1963. He then focused on the liver, performing the first human transplant in 1963. After a several discouraging liver transplants resulting in the death of the first four patients, he and his team performed the first successful liver transplant four years later. The patient survived for more than a year.
In 1981, Dr. Starzl joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. For a decade, he served as chief of transplantation at what would become the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), leading one of the largest and busiest transplant programs in the world. On Valentine’s Day 1984, he performed the world’s first heart-liver transplant on a six-year-old girl. He also directed the University of Pittsburgh Transplantation Institute, which in 1996, would be renamed in his honor. Currently on the faculty as Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery, Dr. Starzl remains an active investigator in the areas of transplant tolerance and chimerism — the coexistence of donor and recipient cells.
A young Tom Starzl leans out of an EEG machine used to record neurological messages of the brain stem. As a medical student, Starzl spent two summer studying neurophysiology in Dr. H.W. Magoun’s lab. (Image from 1986 Ward Rounds profile.)
Dr. Starzl shared in a 1986 Ward Rounds profile article that he had no plan for where his career would lead him. “If I wanted to climb the administrative ladder, I would have never done those livers, or for that matter, those kidneys,” he said. “I would not have persisted in the face of those first discouraging results.”
But persist he did — providing hope where there was none and pioneering what was once a new field of medicine.