Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, colloquially known as P&S and formerly Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, is a graduate school of Columbia University that is located in the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Founded in 1767 by Samuel Bard as the medical department of King’s College (now Columbia University), the College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first medical school in the thirteen coloniesand hence, the United States, to award the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Beginning in 1993, P&S also was the first U.S. medical school to hold a white coat ceremony.
Beginning in the fall of 2009, the medical school implemented a new curriculum that differed markedly from more traditional structures. The largest change involved a reduction in the number of preclinical months from twenty-four to eighteen and the expansion of the electives and selectives period to fourteen months. Each student now is required to spend four months working on a scholarly project before graduation.
Situated on land overlooking the Hudson River and separated from Columbia’s undergraduate campus in Morningside Heights by approximately fifty blocks and the neighborhood of Harlem, the Columbia University Medical Center has its own unique standing and identity. The campus comprises not only P&S, but also the College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental and Oral Surgery), the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the Presbyterian portion of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (including the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Affiliated hospitals include Harlem Hospital, Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, and Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York. A new, 14-story glass medical education tower is currently under construction. Housing options on Columbia’s Medical Campus include Bard Hall and the Bard-Haven Towers, a complex of three, 31-story apartment buildings overlooking the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. Students are guaranteed housing on campus all years, although many students choose to live in other parts of New York City.
In 1767, Dr. Samuel Bard, an alumnus of King’s College (now Columbia University) and the University of Edinburgh Medical School, opened a medical school at Columbia. At the time, the medical program at King’s College was the first to open in the Province of New York and only the second to be opened in the American Colonies. The school was modelled on the University of Edinburgh Medical School, which at the time was the world leader. Three years later, in 1770, King’s College conferred its first medical degree to Robert Tucker, this would prove to be the first Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) awarded in the Thirteen Colonies. Prior to King’s College of Medicine offering of the M.D. degree, other American and Canadian medical schools had been offering the M.B. degree. King’s College continued to educate young doctors until 1776, when the school was forced to close due to the onset of the Revolutionary War and the occupation of New York by British soldiers. King’s College remained closed until 1784 when the school was reopened as Columbia College and in December of that year the faculty of the medical school were re-instated. In 1791, Bard, now a prominent colonial physician whom George Washington credited with saving his life, was named dean of the medical school.
In 1997, the Presbyterian Hospital merged with New York Hospital (partner of Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University) to form the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. This new hospital system also has incorporated many of the satellite hospitals and affiliated programs of these two institutions. While the two medical schools remain independent of one another, there has been significant cross-fertilization between the two campuses, leading to increasing numbers of shared research experiences and training programs. NYPH is now the largest private employer in New York City. All hospitals in the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System are affiliated with either the Cornell or Columbia medical schools.
At the 2017 Crown Awards, President Lee Bollinger announced that the school would officially be renamed as the Columbia University Roy and Diana Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. This decision was made in response to a gift of $250 million from Dr. P. Roy and Diana Vagelos. $150 million of the gift, was dedicated to endow a fund to help Columbia eliminate student loans for medical students who qualify for financial aid. The remaining $100 million will be divided equally to support precision medicine programs and basic science research as well as an endowed professorship in the Department of Medicine in honor of the Vagelos family’s longtime doctor and friend, Thomas P. Jacobs, MD.