Heritage, Volume 17, Number 2, May 1999 Page: 8
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BY VERNIE A. STEMBRIDGE, M.D.
W ould you believe that The University of Texas Medical Branch was
not the first medical school in Texas? Not even the first in Galveston?
There were six medical schools chartered
in Texas prior to the opening of
UTMB in 1891. Subsequently there have
been at least 20 additional charters issued
- most to schools of dubious qualifications,
which flourished and then died. But
today Texas has eight quality medical
schools training students in the art and
science of medicine.
Three named schools preceded The
University of Texas Medical Branch at
Galveston (UTMB): the first was chartered
by the Methodist Church in 1856 as
Soule University, which subsequently appointed
a faculty but never got off the
ground, probably due to the Civil War.
Next, The Medical College of Texas
was to be opened in November 1861 and
among its faculty was listed Ashbel Smith.
This school was also derailed by the onset
of the Civil War.
The third, Galveston Medical College,
began operation in 1865 with 23 students
Texas medicine pioneer Dr. Ashbel Smith later
became the president of the Texas Medical
Association. Photograph courtesy of TMA.
in attendance. This active school of good
repute, regularly graduating fine physicians,
continued until 1890 (with a name change
in 1873 to Texas Medical College and
Hospital). During its history an interesting
event occurred wherein the entire faculty
resigned in protest over the activities of its
chairman of surgery, Dr. Greensville S.
Dowell. To Dowell's credit, however, is the
fact that he edited and published one of the
first medical journals in Texas.
With the death of Dr. Dowell in 1881, a
young, energetic, well-educated physician
was recruited as professor and dean, Dr.
George Dock. He added considerable luster
to medical education in Texas and was
later to become prominent nationwide.
During the late 1880s, this school continued
on a year-to-year basis while awaiting
the establishment of the Medical Department
of The University of Texas.
By popular vote in 1881, The University
of Texas was authorized to establish its
Medical Department in Galveston, at that
time the largest community in Texas. Opening
of the school was delayed until completion
of its first building, "Old Red", in 1891
(see drawing on page 10). The first class
graduated in 1892. The school was built
adjacent to the newly built John Sealy
Hospital. A remarkable symbiotic relationship
was created via the generous provisions
of John Sealy's will and the bequests
of his progeny, which established a foundation
for the benefit of the medical school
for as long as it remained in Galveston.
The University of Texas Health Science
Center at San Antonio is also the
third medical school in that city. The
first was organized in 1888 as the Medical
Department of the University of San
Antonio, but no instruction was ever
The second chartered
school was a diploma mill,
The New York Medical
College, that advertised
extensively in Sunday
in cities throughout the
South. An application
form plus an enrollment
fee of $50 was all that was
necessary to obtain a
medical diploma. The
West Texas Medical Association,
the Texas Medical Association,
was so incensed
at this turn of events that
sufficient money was
gathered to enroll an illiterate
janitor. Upon the
janitor's receipt of his diploma,
charges were filed
in court, and this diploma
mill was shut down. Diploma
mills were not
unique to Texas nor to
San Antonio (others operated
Texarkana and reportedly in Mound City,
The University of North Texas Health
Science Center at Fort Worth is the second
medical school in that city. The Medical
Department of Fort Worth University
graduated its first Doctor of Medicine in
1895. In 1911, this school became the
College of Medicine of Texas Christian
University. As a consequence of the Flexner
Report (discussed below), the medical school
ceased operation in 1918 and turned over
all of its records to Baylor Medical College
in Dallas, which accepted the alumni as
8 HERITAGE *MAY 1999
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 17, Number 2, May 1999, periodical, May 1999; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45394/m1/8/: accessed December 3, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.