Mission and History
New York Medical College is a health sciences university whose purpose is to educate physicians, scientists, public health specialists, and other healthcare professionals, and to conduct biomedical and population-based research. Through its faculty and affiliated clinical partners, the College provides service to its community in an atmosphere of excellence, scholarship and professionalism. New York Medical College believes that the rich diversity of its student body and faculty is important to its mission of educating outstanding health care professionals for the multicultural world of the 21st century.
History of New York Medical College
New York Medical College owes its founding in 1860 to the vision of a group of civic leaders in New York City who believed that medicine should be practiced with greater sensitivity to the needs of patients. The group, led by William Cullen Bryant, the noted poet and editor of the Evening Post, was particularly concerned with the condition of hospitals and medical education. During those pre-Civil War years, New York City was plagued with slums, garbage-laden streets and the population lived with the constant threat of epidemics. Much of the city lacked running water. Of particular concern to Bryant were some then common medical practices used to treat disease, such as bleedings, purges, the use of leeches and the administering of strong and unpalatable drugs in enormous doses. Bryant was zealously devoted to the branch of medicine known as homeopathy, which, among its tenets, advocated moderation in medicinal dosage, exercise, a good diet, fresh air and rest in treating illness. The school opened its doors on the corner of 20th street and Third Avenue as the New York Homeopathic Medical College. At the College’s first session, there were 59 students and a faculty of 8. By its fifth year of operation the College’s reputation was very good and the student body had grown to include representatives from 12 states and the Canadian provinces. Bryant served as the medical school’s first president and held the office of president of the Board of Trustees for 10 years.
Advancing Medical Careers for Women
In 1863, a separate but related institution known as the New York Medical College for Women was founded by Dr. Clemence Sophia Lozier, staffed and supervised by many of the College’s male faculty. In 1867, this institution graduated the first female physician in the country, Dr. Emily Stowe, who had previously been refused admission to every medical school in her native Canada. Dr. Susan McKinney, the first African-American female physician in New York State and the third in the nation, graduated from New York Medical College for Women in 1870 with the highest grade in the class. When the institution closed in 1918, students transferred to the College. Thus, New York Medical College makes its claim to be among the first medical schools to admit women.
Expansion and Growth
Expansion of the College’s facilities and programs began early in the College’s history. By 1872, the medical moved into larger quarters made available by the New York Ophthalmic Hospital at Third Avenue and 23rd Street. This institution, one of only two in New York City at the time for the treatment of ophthalmic diseases, had been placed under the College’s supervision in 1867. Students were thus able to enroll in graduate study in ophthalmology and had the opportunity to earn an Oculi et Auri degree.
Affiliation with Metropolitan Hospital
In 1875, Metropolitan Hospital opened as a municipal facility on Ward’s Island, staffed largely by the faculty of New York Medical College. The relationship, which continues, is among the nation’s oldest continuing affiliations between a private medical school and a public hospital.
Faculty began to consider the desirability of establishing a hospital connected to the school to afford closer opportunities for clinical instruction. The Flower Free Surgical Hospital, built by New York Medical College in 1889, was the first teaching hospital in the country to be owned by a medical college. It was constructed at York Avenue and 63rd Street with funds given largely by Congressman Roswell P. Flower, later governor of New York. It became possible now, for the College “to embrace under its jurisdiction a free hospital for treatment of the poor and for clinical instruction of its students” as the minutes of the Board of Trustees duly recorded.
Reputation for Training Clinicians
By 1896, the College’s reputation for training superb clinicians and scholars was recognized by the Board of Regents of the State of New York. The College ranked first in the state in the percentage of graduates who passed examinations for licensure conducted by that Board. The faculty’s ability and enthusiasm for teaching resulted in a strong curriculum of theoretical and practical instruction for medical students, a tradition that continues to this day.
Nation’s First Minority Scholarship Program
In 1928, the College became the first medical school in the nation to establish a scholarship program specifically for minority students through the efforts of Walter Gray Crump, Sr., M.D. An alumnus and voluntary faculty member who participated vigorously in the academic life of the College, Dr. Crump taught surgery, served as a staff surgeon at other hospitals, was a founder of the New York Medical College for Women, was a trustee of Tuskegee Institute and Howard University and assumed a leading role in the advancement of minority education and minority affairs. Dr. Crump was eventually awarded the rank of emeritus professor in recognition of his dedication and visionary contributions to the College.
By 1935, the College had transferred its outpatient activities to the Fifth Avenue Hospital at Fifth Avenue and 106th Street. The College (including Flower Hospital) and Fifth Avenue Hospital merged in 1938 and became New York Medical College, Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals.
Graduate Education Program Growth
The College’s Certificate of Incorporation was amended in 1938 to include authority to award graduate degrees in addition to the M.D.--specifically, a master of science in medicine, a doctorate in medical science and a doctorate in public health. The conduct of research and the scheduling of advanced courses dated as early as 1910 and the offering of graduate courses in surgery and medicine to residents began in the 1920s.
Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences Founded
In 1963, the Graduate School of Medical Sciences was founded, establishing for the first time graduate education within a school separate from the medical curriculum. The Board of Trustees approved the by-laws of the graduate school in 1969 and renamed it the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences.
Some Financially Turbulent Years
During the ‘60s and 70s, the College experienced some financial difficulties. Resources were increasingly being expended to operate Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals and to invest in expensive new technologies and faculty salaries were being supplemented to subsidize private practice income. The College began to consider a relocation of its city campus around the mid-1960s, and ultimately selected an opportunity presented from Westchester County.
Financial problems at Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals continued, exacerbated by declining hospital admissions. Funds were being diverted from the medical school at an alarming rate and soon it was estimated that the College was subsidizing hospital operations at a rate of more than $1 million a month. The College was on the brink of bankruptcy. The Board of Trustees considered a number of options, most requiring a takeover by another institution.
Relationship with the Archdiocese of New York
The Board of Trustees decided to attempt to interest the Archdiocese of New York in College affairs. In 1978, Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York, took a personal interest in the College and agreed to foster a relationship that would be important to ensuring the continued excellence of the extensive Catholic hospital system. The Archdiocese assured the College’s future by helping the school restructure its debt, strengthening its Board of Trustees and adding many Catholic hospitals to the College’s affiliations. It also took over the operation of Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals, converting it to a specialty hospital serving the developmentally disabled (it is now known as Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center.)
The university’s progress, distinguished by a marked increase in the academic quality of the student body, continued in the 90s. In 1992, a newly appointed president and chief executive officer, Rev. Msgr. Harry C. Barrett, D.Min., M.P.H., swiftly launched a strategic planning initiative. For almost three years, the academic community engaged in intensive committee meetings, retreats, focus groups and surveys intended to clarify the institution’s strategic vision and direction. The resulting strategic plan, approved by the Board of Trustees, served as the foundation for the university’s reengineering efforts and is a valued reference document for program planning and resource allocation.
Early in the decade, the Board of Trustees recognized that the nation’s demand for healthcare professionals would soon exceed supply and began to focus attention on the Graduate School of Health Sciences (GSHS). An eminent healthcare professional joined the College faculty as dean, with responsibility for revitalizing the GSHS and expanding program offerings. Within a few years, enrollment increased by more than 50 percent and currently exceeds 600 students. In 1997, the Graduate School of Health Science’s new physical therapy program was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Subsequently, a program in health informatics was introduced to educate students about computer applications designed to improve the management of medical information while integrating traditional tools of healthcare administration. A master of science program in speech-language pathology began in 1999.
Leading the nation in response to a shortage of primary care physicians, the School of Medicine developed a program early in the decade with the goal of doubling the number of medical school graduates who, after completing their residencies, enter generalist practices. The program, known as the generalist physician initiative, was awarded major funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of only 18 nationwide to be so designated.
The generalist physician initiative appears to have met its objective. According to the 1997 Association of American Medical Colleges Matriculating Student Questionnaire report, the number of Class of 2001 students from New York Medical College who plan to enter primary care fields is 64 percent, a remarkable 10 percent higher than the national average. Indeed, if the College’s historic experience holds true, this figure is conservative. For comparison purposes, the percentage planning to enter generalist fields in the early 1980s was about 18 percent.
By mid-decade, the university had secured its first accreditation by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (CHE/MSA), concurrent with the School of Medicine’s re-accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). A longtime student concern--on-campus housing--was addressed with the completion of new construction to accommodate an additional 300 students. A renovation of a campus building into a state-of the-art Learning Center comprising classrooms, a computer laboratory and small group study rooms was also completed.
As the university strengthened, the need for a chief academic officer became more apparent. In 1995, the university appointed a provost to serve in this capacity, Ralph A. O’Connell, M.D., who serves also as dean of the School of Medicine.
The School of Medicine recorded its largest single research grant during the period, a $8.1 million Program Project Grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the study of endothelial cells. In addition, important funding was received from the NIH for the study of cellular immune reactions significant in cancer, for studies on hypertension and hormones relevant to the regulation of blood pressure, and for research exploring diagnostic probes and other aspects of Lyme disease, an illness endemic to the region. In September, 1999, the university began construction of a $27.5 million Medical Education Center and renovation of the Basic Sciences Building, the hub of campus research activity.
Today the Medical Education Center (MEC) is the hub of education for first and second year students in the School of Medicine.