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About the College of Medicine

College History

The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine was established in 1819 as the Medical College of Ohio by pioneering physician Daniel Drake. It became a part of the University of Cincinnati in 1896 and is considered the oldest medical college west of the Allegheny Mountains.

It is the second-oldest public college of medicine in the United States.

The College of Medicine has an exceptional list of alumni and current and past faculty who have made considerable contributions to medicine and to the medical sciences.

With an internationally renowned faculty of 850 members, it would be impossible to list all of our accomplishments here; however, you can view a few of the highlights below.

Questions and additional information about the history of the College of Medicine can be obtained from the UC Libraries’ Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions.

Significant Contributions to Medicine

First Live, Attenuated Polio Vaccine

The UC Academic Health Center is probably best known for the development of the first live, attenuated polio vaccine. Albert B. Sabin, MD, worked on the project both at UC and the affiliated Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Approved for use in the United States in the late 1960s, the vaccine has saved untold millions around the world from paralytic polio and death.

First Heart-Lung Machine

Leland Clark, PhD

In 1951, cardiologist Samuel Kaplan, MD, chemist Leland Clark, PhD, and surgery professor James Helmsworth, MD, developed the world’s first functional heart-lung machine, located at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

UC Stroke Team Pioneers Treatment

Brain scans.

Brain scans.The Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Stroke Team at UC is among the nation’s pioneers in tPA studies and established a protocol for quick diagnosis and treatment. UC scientists also contributed to the development of NovoSeven, a recombinant clotting factor for the treatment of brain hemorrhage caused by stroke.

Health Effects of Lead in Children

Public playground with crumbling lead-based paint.

UC was the first university-based environmental research facility to become nationally known for its studies of the health effects of lead in children, and our department of environmental health was one of the first to test a chelation drug that effectively removed high lead levels from the bloodstream.

Study of Birth Defects Pioneered

Book, “Congenital Malformations,' by Josef Warkany, MD.

The late pediatrics professor Josef Warkany, MD, is regarded as the “father of teratology” (the biological study of birth defects), and his book “Congenital Malformations” (1981) is considered a medical classic, as it was the first to associate causes, not mere chance, with birth defects

Heart Failure Gene Identified

Dimensional image of a heart.

A UC team received international attention in 2002 when it identified two genes that convey a risk of heart failure 10 times greater than that faced by people who do not carry the gene, and that by far the greater risk was in African-Americans.

Development of Benadryl

George Rieveschl, PhD, discovered Benadryl.

The popular antihistamine marketed as Benadryl was developed at UC by the late professor George Rieveschl, PhD.

Saving Preemies

Baby in NICU.

UC pediatrics professor Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, identified a protein that was both vital for lungs to operate and lacking in babies born early, which led to a routine treatment for immature lungs and respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants.

Sniffing Out Disease

Robert Frank, PhD

UC researchers Robert Frank, PhD, and Robert Gesteland, PhD, invented a test to measure how well a person can detect an odor, which in turn can flag brain damage early in the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

First Residency Programs

UC physician and emergency medicine resident.

UC had the first emergency medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation residency programs in the United States. UC also was one of the first in the United States to introduce a family practice residency program, thus pioneering the return of the “family doctor” to U.S. health-care delivery. In 1913, UC had the first oral and maxillofacial surgery residency training program started by Dr. John Callahan. 

Guidelines for Treating Heart Failure

Imaging of the heart.

In 1994 and 1995, Michael Bottorf, PharmD, of UC’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy, helped develop national and state guidelines for the treatment of heart failure.

First Medical Laser Lab

UC's college gate on medical campus.

The late dermatology professor Leon Goldman, MD, considered the “father of laser medicine,” opened the country’s first medical laser laboratory at UC in 1961.

First YAG Laser Used

John Tew, MD

In 1984, neurosurgery professor John Tew, MD. became the country’s first surgeon to receive FDA approval to use the YAG laser to vaporize previously inoperable brain tumors.

Organ Transplant Discovery

Organ Transplant

In 1989, UC researchers discovered that the drug ketoconazole made cyclosporin work more effectively, lowering the amount needed to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ.

Pioneering Gene Therapy

Ronald Warnick, MD

In 1990, under the direction of neurosurgeon Ronald Warnick, MD, UC became one of the first four centers in the country to use gene therapy for the treatment of recurring brain tumors.

Cancer Gene Discoveries

Cancer cells

In 1995, UC researchers isolated a gene that leads to an increased risk of colon cancer, which may lead to understanding how people inherit a predisposition to the disease.

Albert Sabin, MD

Historical Timeline

1819: Founding of the Medical College of Ohio, precursor to the UC College of Medicine. School becomes the oldest medical school west of the Alleghenies.

1821: Founding of the Commercial Hospital and Lunatic Asylum, first teaching hospital of the Medical College of Ohio. It later drops “Lunatic Asylum” from its name in 1861.

1850: Founding of the Cincinnati College of Pharmacy, the first pharmacy school west of the Alleghenies.

1852: Miami Medical College founded.

1869: Cincinnati Hospital opens to replace the Commercial Hospital of Cincinnati.

1896: Medical College of Ohio officially becomes a part of UC.

1908: Miami Medical College and the Medical College of Ohio merge to form the Ohio-Miami Medical College.

1919: Ohio-Miami Medical College renamed the UC College of Medicine.

1938: Hoxworth Blood Center founded.  UC cancer researcher E.W. Wallace among country’s first 10 awardees from the National Institutes of Health.

1960: UC given executive control of Cincinnati General Hospital; First Sabin Sunday hosted (April 24, 1960) in a campaign to vaccinate children in Cincinnati and Hamilton County using the world’s first oral, live-virus polio vaccine, which was developed by UC’s Albert Sabin, MD.

1967: UC Medical Center created and includes the colleges of medicine, nursing and pharmacy, and University Hospital, Christian R. Holmes Hospital and the Health Sciences Library.

1982: Cincinnati General Hospital renamed University of Cincinnati Hospital.

1985: College of Medicine establishes the Daniel Drake Medal—the highest honor bestowed by the college—in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of College of Medicine Founder Daniel Drake, MD.

1994: Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati assumes management of UC Hospital and later renames it University Hospital.

1997: Cardiovascular Research Center opens.

1999: Vontz Center for Molecular Studies opens.

2003: The Genome Research Institute opens. Ground is broken on the Medical Sciences Building/Center for Academic Excellence (CARE)-Crawley project. Phase I slated to open in 2007.

2004: UC’s Elwood Jensen, PhD, honored with Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research.

2006: UC Medical Center adopts the name “Academic Health Center” to better reflect its scope of services. 

2007: UC College of Medicine, University Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center sign memorandum of understanding to support a joint cancer program (now called the Cincinnati Cancer Center, previously Cincinnati Cancer Consortium). The partnership provides scientific and intellectual resources to enable the three institutions to increase the internationally significant research performed.

2008: The CARE/Crawley Building opens.

2009: The Genome Research Institute is renamed the Reading Campus and the Metabolic Diseases Institute is created; CARE/Crawley Building Awarded LEED Gold certification for excellence in sustainable building practices; UC and affiliates awarded Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

2010: UC Health officially launches; College of Medicine embarks on a curriculum revision effort.

2012: University Hospital changes its name to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.