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“Something New in Medical Education”

The Medical School Distinguishes Itself (1907-1924)

Charles Bardeen

Charles Bardeen

In 1907, Charles Bardeen is appointed dean of the newly created two-year College of Medicine, creating departments in anatomy, physiology, physiological chemistry, and bacteriology and hygiene. Classes are held in the attic of historic Science Hall and in the old Chemical Engineering Building. In 1910, with the typhoid epidemic raging across the country, Deen Bardeen creates the Department of Clinical Medicine with the goal of encouraging the development of clinical services in Madison, and offering Student Health Services on campus. Other small hospitals on campus soon follow suit.

Ophthalmology is first introduced as a discipline in 1920, within the Surgery Department among other surgical subspecialties like plastic surgery and orthopedics. Ophthalmology will continue to be housed in Surgery until 1970. 

In an early reflection of the Wisconsin Idea, UW Medical School becomes the nation’s first to establish statewide teaching sites. This innovative “Wisconsin Preceptorial Plan,” places students under the tutelage of physicians in Madison and across the state, beginning what was hailed as “something new in medical education.”

The Wisconsin General Hospital opens its doors in 1924, and this prompts the Medical School to expand its curriculum from a two-year to a four-year program. The early 1920s also sees the establishment of the first eye pathology lab at UW in 1921—the beginnings of the UW DOVS research arm.