Subject of the Month: 2018

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October 2018


Selector: Ella Hu

"The Wayne State University School of Medicine has a storied history that reaches back nearly 150 years. We are the home of many medical firsts, including the world’s first open-heart surgery and the discovery of AZT, the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of AIDS."        -- Jack D. Sobel, M.D.  Dean Wayne State University School of Medicine

SoM Historic Timeline

WSU School of Medicin

1868 - The Detroit Medical College is founded next to Harper Hospital by five physicians who served in the U.S. Civil War. Its motto was Salus Populi – Suprema Lex, the welfare of the people is the highest law. The faculty consists of 12 members who teach medical students a two-year curriculum. The founders are Theodore A. McGraw, M.D.; Samuel P. Duffield; Ph.D. (received his M.D. in 1871 or 1872); David O. Farrand, M.D.; George P. Andrews, M.D.; and Edward W. Jenks, M.D.

1869 - First medical degrees awarded (to transfer students). Class includes Joseph Ferguson, M.D., the first African-American graduate in Michigan.

1879  - Michigan College of Medicine founded.

1885 - Detroit Medical School and Michigan College of Medicine merge to form the Detroit College of Medicine.

1913  - The school is reorganized as the Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery.

1917 - Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery admits women.

1918 - Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery is transferred to the Detroit Board of Education.

1933 - The university is organized under the Board of Education as Colleges of the City of Detroit. The colleges include Medicine, Education, Liberal Arts, Pharmacy, Engineering and the Graduate School.

1934  - Wayne University is named for Wayne County and Revolutionary War Gen. Anthony Wayne.

1956  - Wayne State University is established by Public Act 183 of 1956. The university shifts from city to state control.

1964 - The name of the school is officially changed from College of Medicine to School of Medicine.

1969  - The Shiffman Medical Library is constructed at 4325 Brush St. It opens in 1970.

More historic timeline...

Noteworthy innovations

1952: First use of a mechanical heart pump in open-heart surgery performed by Dr. Forest Dewey Dodrill at Wayne State University's Harper Hospital in Detroit. Heart smart: Leading the way in the D

r. Forest Dewey Dodrill became the first surgeon to use a mechanical heart pump on a patient.

1961: Dr. Ananda Prasad, professor of Internal Medicine, publishes a groundbreaking article linking zinc deficiency to slowed human growth.

Dr. Prasad

1962 - Dr. Morris Goodman, Ph.D., professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, asserts that chimpanzees and gorillas are genetically more closely related to humans than to other apes, and thus should be placed in family Hominidae rather than Pongidae.

Dr. Goodman

1965 -  Professor of Surgery Allen Silbergleit, M.D., Ph.D., performs the world's first successful resection and graft of a ruptured mycotic/tuberculous abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Dr. Allen Silbergleit

1987: The drug AZT, created by Wayne State professor and researcher Dr. Jerome P. Horwitz, becomes the first federally approved treatment for AIDS.

Jerome P. Horwitz developed AZT as a cure for cancer.


Wayne State University Sesquicentennial

WSU Logo with 150 years in the heart of Detroit

On May 18, in 1868, Wayne State University was officially founded as the Detroit Medical College. The first academic term began on Nov. 3, 1868.  On April 22, 1956, the Michigan Legislature adopted Act 183 “to establish and regulate a state institution of higher learning to be known as Wayne State University.” 

Photo of Detroit Medical College with the WSU Seal, Making History Since 1868


Throughout 2018, the WSU Libraries invite you to join us as we celebrate our University's rich history and sesquicentennial. The official celebration period will run from Jan. 1, 2018 to Nov. 1, 2018.  In addition to the Subject of the Month displays, please check the University Calendar for Special Events and Exhibits.

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WSU School of Medicine

WSU School of Medicine's history begins as the Detroit Medical College, founded in 1868 by a group of five physicians. Today, School of Medicine still continues its 150 years of dedication to advancing health education and care.


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