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University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Sesquicentennial, 1870-2020

The 2020-21 academic year marks an important milestone in the history of the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver of Medicine: the 150th anniversary of the first medical school class on the university campus in Iowa City.

While medical training through the University of Iowa can be traced to 1850, when the Iowa Legislature sanctioned the College of the Physicians and Surgeons of the Upper Mississippi as the university’s affiliated medical school, the fall of 1870 marked the official beginning of medical education at Iowa.

The University of Iowa Medical Department was open to both men and women, making it one of the first coeducational medical schools in the nation and ostensibly the first such college west of the Mississippi River. Eight of the 37 students in the first class were women.

Much has happened in the past 150 years since the first medical school class at the University of Iowa:

  • Admitting eight female students to its first class of students was progressive for its era. Today, women represent half of the Carver College of Medicine’s student body.
  • The medical department faculty of 1870 were a small group of primarily generalist physicians. Today, the college’s faculty—which includes more than 1,350 members—are recognized as leaders in education, basic sciences and clinical trials, and medical specialties and sub-specialties.
  • Medical research in the late 19th century was fledgling at best. Today, the research enterprise is a hallmark of the Carver College of Medicine, garnering over $245 million in external funding in fiscal year 2020.
  • In 1870, a relatively low number of clinical cases was a challenge for medical educators. Today, through University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and collaborations with providers and health systems across the state, clinical education is central to teaching and training resident and fellow physicians as well as students in MD, physician assistant, physical therapy, and other degree programs.

As it has since its founding, the Carver College of Medicine remains a cornerstone of the university’s health sciences campus. And as if has for the past century and a half, the college stands ready—through its mission of medical education, biomedical research, and patient care and service—to serve Iowa, and the world, well into the future.