History of the School of Medicine

Woman at microscope

Barbara McClintock begins a five-year stint as an assistant professor at MU. She would go on to become a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was the 1983 Nobel Laureate in Medicine for her discovery of mobile genetic elements.Courtesy of the Barbara McClintock Papers, American Philosophical Society.

The University of Missouri School of Medicine was the first publicly supported medical school west of the Mississippi River. It was organized as a two-year school in 1872. Joseph Norwood, M.D., professor of natural science and philosophy, was the first dean.

Progress was slow until 1890, when Richard Jesse was appointed university president. The school was housed in an old frame building on the northwest corner of campus. Equipment was inadequate and out of date. The program was in danger of being discontinued. Fortunately, Jesse led the school to new heights due to nationwide advances in modernizing medical education. In addition, he reorganized the academic structure and raised financial support for new facilities.

W.L. Parker established an endowment that supplemented the cost of building the Parker Memorial Hospital. In 1957, the school was transformed into a four-year program. As a result, the Medical Center was constructed in 1960. The name was later changed to University Hospitals and Clinics.

Today, prospective students compete for 128 first-year slots. The school uses a problem-based learning style, which emphasizes self-directed learning and early clinical experience.