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Medical Education Roots of the University of Illinois at Chicago




In 1859, the Chicago College of Pharmacy was chartered as a private institution, which would become the first academic unit in Chicago to become part of the University of Illinois, and later part of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Founded by a group of prominent Chicago druggists, the College was only the sixth school of pharmacy in the United States and the first pharmacy school founded west of the Alleghenies. Courses were offered in rented halls or in the offices of professors until a permanent location was established downtown on Dearborn Street.


The College closed during the Civil War, and reopened in 1870, to a “large and enthusiastic class,” but was destroyed the following year in the Great Chicago Fire. After a fundraising drive, the College reopened at its Dearborn Street location in 1873. It moved to a new location on State Street in 1884 before relocating in 1916 to its present neighborhood near Cook County Hospital on the Near West Side.

The Chicago College of Pharmacy and its associates were instrumental in establishing statewide regulations for the distribution of medicine, lobbying for the establishment of the Illinois Board of Pharmacy, and helping pass the Pharmacy Practice law in 1880, which restricted pharmacists to those holding a graduate degree in pharmacy. Having raised expectations for professionalization in pharmacy, the College, lobbied for its affiliation with the University of Illinois, which passed the state legislature in 1896. Because the program did not meet baccalaureate requirements for the U of I, the University initially named the College of Pharmacy “the University of Illinois School of Pharmacy” rather than calling it a “college.”

Chicago College of Pharmacy, circa 1905. Chicago College of Pharmacy, circa 1905. UIUC photo.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S), which would eventually become UIC’s College of Medicine, was founded in 1882. P&S was the first medical school in the Midwest to emphasize laboratory and clinical instruction. Its most famous professor was J. B. Murphy, who was one of the first surgeons on the scene at the Haymarket bombing in 1886, and later would remove the bullet from Theodore Roosevelt after an attempted assassination in 1912. Following the path set by the College of Pharmacy, P&S affiliated with the University in 1897, becoming its Department of Medicine. In 1901, the Columbian Dental College became the University School of Dentistry. Then in 1913, the Medical, Pharmacy, and Dental schools were fully integrated into the University of Illinois and were designated colleges within the University system.

During the early 1930s, the University consolidated its professional colleges, including Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry and others on the Near West Side, making Chicago home to one of the world’s largest concentration of medical institutions.

In 1961, the Chicago Professional Colleges were redesignated the University of Illinois at the Medical Center (UIMC). Following the creation of the Chicago Circle Campus of the University of Illinois, the colleges of the Medical Center and the Circle Campus were joined in 1982, creating the University of Illinois at Chicago.

New Medical Center building housing the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine and Pharmacy, 1936.


Faculty posing in front of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. College of Physicians and Surgeons, circa 1920. UIUC photo.

College of Dentistry, circa 1930. College of Dentistry, circa 1930. UIUC photo.

  At right is the Medical Center building housing the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine and Pharmacy in 1936. UIC LHS photo.
  In 1941, the state legislature created the Illinois Medical District, below, which had as its mandate the coordination of medical training, patient care, and research. UIUC photo.
  Overhead view of the Illinois Medical District.


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