Medicine, School of

The university first established a School of Medicine in 1879. It was a two-year program, designed to provide students with the fundamentals of medical education, with the understanding that they would continue their education elsewhere. This first effort was short-lived, with the school closing in 1885 after the first dean resigned. It reopened in 1890 as a "special school of medicine and pharmacy."

The School of Medicine moved around campus, housed at different times in New East and Person Hall before moving into the university's first building constructed for medical education, Caldwell Hall, in 1912. The school also used a small wooden building south of campus as a "dissecting hall." Students were required to take a course in dissection as part of their study of anatomy. This introduced the problem common at nineteenth-century medical schools: finding bodies to operate on. The university, not unlike other medical schools at the time, was believed to have employed grave robbers to secure cadavers. The majority of bodies used by the students during that era were African Americans.

In 1902 UNC began a "University of North Carolina Medical Department at Raleigh," offering classes in the state capital. But this closed in 1909, as the university had difficulty funding both programs. As the university advocated to expand to a full four-year medical program, the university system and legislature explored other options, including a rumored proposal from Bowman Gray to fund the school, provided it move to Winston-Salem. In the late 1940s the legislature finally agreed to support a four-year medical program and the establishment of a teaching hospital in Chapel Hill. The North Carolina Memorial Hospital opened in 1952 and the first class of the four-year program graduated in 1954.

Since the establishment of the four-year program, the School of Medicine and related programs in health sciences have seen rapid growth. In 1971 the school significantly expanded its statewide reach with the establishment of Area Health Education Centers. These regional centers provide continuing education opportunities for health professionals across North Carolina.

The school grew throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, expanding throughout South Campus and establishing new programs and centers focused on genome sciences, maternal and infant health, infectious disease, cardiovascular biology, cancer research, and many others. By the 2010s the School of Medicine was consistently recognized as one of the nation's leading medical schools.