Yale School of Medicine, United States of America

Medicine at Yale traces its roots to the founding of Yale College in 1701. Close to 10 percent of Yale’s eighteenth-century alumni, some 224 graduates of the college, practiced medicine while also serving as members of the clergy. The college awarded an honorary degree, the first medical degree given by an American university, to London practitioner Daniel Turner in 1723 in recognition of his donation of books to the school.

In 1810 the Connecticut General Assembly established the Medical Institution of Yale College, giving Yale and the Connecticut Medical Society shared jurisdiction over the training of physicians. The school opened its doors in 1813 with four professors and 37 students and conferred its first degrees the following year. Ties with the medical society were formally severed 1884. The name Yale College was changed to Yale University in 1887, and the name of the medical school automatically changed, too. The current name, Yale School of Medicine,was adopted in 1918.

Three major figures in 20th-century medicine—Abraham Flexner, Milton C. Winternitz and Harvey Cushing—were closely associated with medical school’s rise in prestige during the first half of the last century. Flexner revolutionized American medicine with his 1910 report to the Carnegie Foundation, in which he recommended Yale and Harvard remain open as the only two medical schools in New England worth preserving. Swayed by the Flexner’s report, the Yale Corporation redoubled its commitment to support the medical school and to strengthen its relationship with the New Haven Hospital as its primary teaching hospital. Winternitz, who served as dean from 1920 to 1935, was the architect of the school’s unique educational philosophy, the Yale system of medical education, which emphasizes critical thinking in a nongraded, noncompetitive environment and requires students to write a thesis based on original research.

The medical school grew by leaps and bounds in the post-World War II era, fueled by the rapid expansion of the National Institutes of Health and other federal investments in science and medicine. The school’s growth—from a full-time faculty of less than 100 in 1950 to more than 1,800 today—coincided with major scientific discoveries and medical advances. Yale’s historical contributions to medicine include the first X-ray performed in the United States, the first successful use of penicillin in America, the first use of cancer chemotherapy, and the introduction of fetal heart monitoring, natural childbirth and newborn rooming-in. Yale doctors designed the first artificial heart pump and the first insulin infusion pump for diabetes, and it was here that the means of transmission of the polio virus was established, paving the way for the Salk vaccine. Lyme disease was identified by two Yale physicians in 1975.

With major new infrastructure investments that will facilitate continued state-of-the-art research, the medical school’s rich history is still being written. In 2003, the 457,000 square-foot Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education was dedicated, increasing research space at the medical school by 25 percent. Another 120,000 square feet came online in 2007 with the opening of the Amistad Building, which houses the newly established Yale Stem Cell Center, the Interdepartmental Program in Vascular Biology and Therapeutics, and the Human and Translational Immunology Program. In 2006, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation began operations, creating a robust infrastructure to support clinical and translational research and train the next generation of researchers. Additionally, the Yale University Positron Emission Tomography Center was dedicated in January 2007 and Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven opened in 2009.

The School of Medicine offers the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree and a Master of Medical Science (M.M.Sc.) degree through theYale Physician Associate Program and Yale Physician Assistant Online Program for prospective physician assistants. Public healthdegrees are administered through the Yale School of Public Health.

There are also joint degree programs with other disciplines at Yale, including the M.D/Juris Doctor (J.D.) in conjunction with Yale Law School; the M.D./Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) in conjunction with the Yale School of Management; the M.D./Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) in conjunction with the Yale School of Public Health; science or engineering in conjunction with the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (M.D./Ph.D.); and the M.D./Master of Divinity (M.Div) in conjunction with Yale Divinity School. Students pursuing a tuition-free fifth year of research are eligible for the Master of Health Science degree.

The M.D. program is notable for its assessment of student achievement. In particular, the school employs the so-called “Yale System” established by Dean Winternitz in the 1920s, wherein first- and second-year students are not graded or ranked among their classmates. In addition, course examinations are anonymous, and are intended only for students’ self-evaluation. Student performance is thus based on seminar participation, qualifying examinations (if a student fails, it is his or her responsibility to meet with a professor and arrange for an alternative assessment – passing grades are not released), clinical clerkship evaluations, and the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Prior to graduation, students are required to submit a thesis based on original research. A hallmark of the Yale System is the unusual flexibility that it provides; with this flexibility comes great responsibility for the student to take an active role in directing his or her education according to individual interests.

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