History of Teaching Medicine at Emory

Exhibit PhotoThe School of Medicine is a hub of cutting edge research and education, near the top of numerous graduate school rankings — but it didn’t start that way. A quick trip to the first floor of Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library returns you to 1854, walking the visitor through a concise and crisp account of the medical school through the decades. Furnished with a host of photographs and antiques on view, exploring the humble origins of medicine at Emory has never been more delightfully informative.

Exhibit PhotoThose origins start with the opening of the Atlanta Medical College, founded in 1854 by Dr. John G. Westmoreland and associates. It would open six years before the beginning of the Civil War, furnishing physicians to treat Confederate soldiers in its hospital. The college would only narrowly escape destruction after the Battle of Atlanta, when physicians disguised hospital staffers as patients when a Union demolition crew with orders to destroy the college inspected the grounds. In 1879, after a split between Dr. Thomas Spencer Powell and the Atlanta Medical College over an abuse of his position, the Southern Medical College was formed to rival the original college. Jumping forward almost thirty years after the end of the war, the exhibit details the opening of Grady Hospital in 1892, championed chiefly by newspaper editor Henry W. Grady. Today, Grady Hospital is the fifth-busiest hospital in the country and the largest in the state.

Exhibit PhotoThe two rival colleges, both newly-minted neighbors with Grady Hospital, would eventually re-merge to form the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1898, a combination of capital that vastly increased the resources available to students through new laboratories and fully-salaried professors. But standards pressures from the American Medical Association required yet another merger with the Atlanta School of Medicine in 1913, forming the Atlanta Medical College. But this new organization would only last about 2 years. Further financial pressures led to Emory’s purchase of the college, re-established as the Emory University School of Medicine.

Exhibit PhotoThe rest of the exhibit splits into three sections: one is dedicated to Anlage, the student newspaper which ran from the 1960s to the 1990s. The section shows off clippings from issues featuring the light-hearted “Med-School Game” to those highlighting efforts by black students trying to obtain a seat on student government. The other two focus on Emory’s contributions to cardiology and anatomy since 1915. The cardiology segment highlights the discovery of Bachmann’s bundle, a key part of the heart’s electrical pathways, as well as other contributors and researchers in the Emory Division of Cardiology. The anatomy section begins in the 1500s, mentioning Andreas Vesalius, and the acquisition of a first edition of his seminal “De Humani Corporis Fabrica” (On the Fabric of the Human Body) — a section dedicated to that work is just around the corner behind the main exhibit. The exhibit also pays lighthearted tribute to retired faculty member Dr. Mark Silverman, a freshman anatomy lecturer who would surprise students by dressing as physician William Harvey and beginning the lecture from the perspective of the 17th century.Exhibit Photo

Whether you have two minutes or twenty, the History of Teaching Medicine at Emory exhibit is a wonderful addition to the library’s many resources and displays. The exhibit remains on display during the library’s open hours.