Medicine at Yale, 1910 - 1960

This is the second part of a three part exhibit on the history of the Yals School of Medicine. This online exhibit, curated by Toby Appel, is based on an exhibit in the Library rotunda in 2001 and later adapted for the Web. It covers the aftermath of the Flexner Report in the first decade of the twetieth century to the beginnings of the federal grant era by the time of the Sequicentennial in 1960. It relies in aprt on Gerard Burrow's history of YSM.

The Blumer Years

The second decade of the century, the years of George Blumer's deanship, were marked by major improvements in the Medical School. The School forged an agreement with the New Haven Hospital whereby Yale professors would take charge of the wards throughout the year and be able to use the wards for medical education. As part of the agreement, Yale built Brady Laboratory on Cedar Street, funded by a gift from the Bradyfamily and named in memory of Anthony Brady. Blumer recruited Milton Winternitz in 1917 to be chairman of the new Pathology Department. Finally, with the assistance of a matching grant from the General Education Board, the Corporation raised endowment funds for the Medical School, and the School adopted the full-time system whereby key faculty in clinical areas would be paid a full-time salary for teaching and research.

George Blumer, Dean of the Medical School, 1910-1920

After the Corporation considered the Flexner Report, Herbert E. Smith, dean for 25 years, was replaced by George Blumer. Blumer arrived in the United States from his native England in 1886 and received his M.D. from the Cooper Medical College in San Francisco in 1891. After his internship, he did graduate work in pathology and bacteriology at Johns Hopkins, where he worked under Halsted, Osler, and Welch. In 1906, Blumer, then on the faculty of Cooper Medical College, was called to Yale to become Professor of the Principles and Practice of Medicine. The decade of Blumer's service as Dean, 1910-1920, was a era of great change in medical education and Blumer has been credited with initiating the reforms which were to revolutionize medical education at Yale following the publication of the Flexner Report. In particular, he presided over the forming of an agreement with the hospital, the building of Brady Laboratory, the establishment of the full-time system, and the growth of endowment funds for the Medical School, and he envisioned the move of the Medical School to Cedar Street. After Blumer stepped down as Dean, he became the David Paige Smith Clinical Professor of Medicine until his retirement in 1940.

Agreement with New Haven Hospital, 1913 and 1917

Not long after becoming Dean, George Blumer became a member of the Prudential Committee of the New Haven Hospital Board, and proposed a committee of the Board to examine the Flexner Report and the possibility of a stronger alliance between the Hospital and Medical School. The terms of an agreement were worked out in 1913, but the agreement was contingent on raising $600,000 by July 1, 1914 for a clinical and pathological laboratory to be jointly operated by the Medical School and Hospital. By the agreement, the Hospital would permit the faculty of the Medical School to nominate physicians, surgeons, and specialists as vacancies occurred in the hospital staff, and allow these faculty members “to use the public wards, laboratories and other wings of the Hospital, wherever located, for teaching purposes.” The Corporation authorized the agreement on May 19, 1913. But it was far from clear that the funds could be raised by the deadline.

Brady Laboratory, opened in 1917

With the contingent hospital agreement in hand, Blumer and the Yale Administration began a major campaign to solicit the needed money. Progress was slow and it looked for a while that the Hospital agreement would not go through. Finally in early 1914 George Parmly Day, the Yale Treasurer, convinced the Brady family to provide money for the pathological laboratory. The Anthony N. Brady Memorial Laboratory opened in 1917. That year Milton Winternitz came to Yale as Professor of Pathology. This photograph dates from the 1920s or 1930s.

The General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, also approached in 1914, pledged $500,000 on the condition that the University raised $1.5 million by January 1, 1916 and paid clinical faculty on a full-time basis. With the Brady money and the hope of GEB funding, the Yale Corporation and Hospital signed the affiliation contract with the Hospital before the deadline of July 1, 1914.


Centennial Ceremony, June 15, 1914

The second Centennial celebration, far grander than the first, featured not only an alumni banquet in Commons but also formal exercises in Woolsey Hall. In the timeline opposite the program, note the last entry announcing the agreement with New Haven Hospital.


Centennial Banquet, 1914

This gathering of alumni of the Medical School took place in the Commons Dining Hall.

Joseph Marshall Flint, Professor of the Principles and Practice of Surgery, 1907-1921

When Cushing declined the professorship of surgery, Flint was recruited. Upon Yale's adoption of the full-time system, Flint became Yale's first full-time professor of surgery. He was largely responsible for the unit that Yale sent to serve in World War I.


Mobile Unit 39, the Medical School's Service Unit in World War I

Joseph Marshall Flint, who had served in a French hospital in Passy in 1915, conceived and organized a mobile hospital unit to consist of Yale medical faculty and students. The Yale Corporation voted $250,000 to support the hospital. The Yale Mobile Unit arrived in France in early 1918 and spent most of the winter of at Base Hospital 39 at Limoges and then moved to the front during a major German offensive. Flint and his colleagues developed the "Ford factory principle" to increase efficiency to the extent that they could operate on one severely wounded patient every 45 minutes.


The General Education Board, Rockefeller Foundation, Patron of the Medical School

This arm of the Rockefeller Foundation funded education ranging from practical farm training to medical schools. Abraham Flexner was appointed to be assistant secretary of the General Education Board. Flexner funded endowments of medical schools willing to adopt the full-time system and the ideals of the Flexner Report. The support of the G.E.B. was pivotal to the building and outfitting of Sterling Hall of Medicine and to the rise of Yale to the highest rank of medical schools.

The photograph shows John B. Rockefeller.


Charles Edward Amory Winslow, First Professor and Chairman of Public Health, 1915-1945

One of Blumer's major achievements was to found a Department of Public Health in 1915 with C.-E.-A. Winslow as chairman.


Louise Farnam, Pioneer Woman Student at Yale School of Medicine, 1916

The Yale School of Medicine admitted its first women students in 1916, about the same time as a number of other medical schools began to admit women. One minor stumbling block to the admission of women was that there were no lavatory facilities for them. Henry W. Farnam, professor of economics and a member of the board of New Haven Hospital, offered to pay for them. His daughter Louise Farnam was one of two women to graduate in 1920. She won the Cambell Gold Medal for scholastic achievement. After further training at Johns Hopkins, she joined the faculty of the Yale-sponsored medical school in Chang-sha, China. Her classmate, Helen May Scoville, was hired by Yale as an instructor in surgery and pathology.


Class of 1921

The one woman in the Class of 1921, the second to graduate women, is Ella Clay Wakeman. She later served as Director of Public Health of Bethany, Connecticut for 23 years.

The faculty seated in the second row are: Frank P. Underhill, Chairman of Pharmacology and Toxicology from 1921 to 1932; George Blumer, former Dean and since 1920, David Paige Smith Clinical Professor of Medicine; Dean Milton C. Winternitz; Joseph Marshall Flint, Professor of Surgery, 1907-1921; and Harry Burr Ferris, E.K. Hunt Professor of Anatomy, 1897-1933.

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