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Faculty reflect on Ohio State College of Medicine’s 100 years

The OSU College of Medicine is celebrating its centennial this year. Credit: Thomas Williams / Lantern photographer

The OSU College of Medicine is celebrating its centennial this year.
Credit: Thomas Williams / Lantern photographer

There were 36 students who entered the first class at the Ohio State College of Medicine, at a time when medical education was just starting to be linked to universities. One hundred years later, it has become a fundamental part of OSU’s identity.

The college’s faculty has seen its share of changes, as well, and some employees have been able to participate in much of the school’s progress firsthand.

Dr. Christopher Ellison has been working in the College of Medicine since 1976. He currently serves as a distinguished professor and vice dean for clinical affairs, but has worked his way through a number of positions since he originally started as a resident in training.

Ellison said it’s difficult to define a particularly memorable moment in his time with the college, simply because he’s been fascinated by its growth as a whole.

“It’s expanded tremendously and the quality of the medical school has gotten better and better over time,” he said. “It was always very good, but now it’s noted as one of the top medical schools in the United States.”

OSU’s medical school was ranked No. 29 for primary care and No. 34 for research by U.S. News and World Report’s 2014 medical school rankings.

Prior to the 1900s, almost anyone could open a medical school, said Dr. Daniel Clinchot, vice dean for education for the OSU College of Medicine. Clinchot said a nationally-recognized educator by the name of Abraham Flexner helped to reform medical education by stating that it should be part of university institutions.

It wasn’t until 1914 that the medical school, then called the Starling Ohio Medical College, was officially recognized as a part of OSU. William Means was named the first dean and he “had the ultimate desire to see in the city of Columbus the best school of medicine that could be gotten and that a part of the Ohio State University,” according to a May 1915 issue of The Lantern.

One noticeable change to the college since its founding, Clinchot said, has been its student body.

In a Sept. 29, 1914, article of The Lantern, it was stated that “a class of 36 well-trained students is of sufficient size to develop class spirit, individual enthusiasm and to call forth the best efforts of the teachers.”

Since then, classes have grown in numbers and diversity, Clinchot said.

“Over time, the percent of women and underrepresented students increased dramatically,” Clinchot said. “Right now we’re close to half and half men and women in the class, and our underrepresented students make up 20 percent of the class, which is really progressive when you think about the history of the make-up of medical classes across the country.”

Class sizes now stand at about 200 students a year, Clinchot said.

Ellison and Clinchot agreed the curriculum’s evolution over the last century has set the college apart from other medical schools.

“Their innovation in terms of curricular development has been spectacular,” Ellison said.

In the 1970s, a three-year medical school curriculum was implemented, Clinchot said. Since then, the curriculum has been redesigned in a number of ways, including starting students in clinical work in their first year, something that previously had not been done.

The basis for many of these changes, Clinchot said, was the goal of graduating its students with the ability to be successful in many aspects of medicine.

“That was the vision,” Clinchot said. “To provide Ohio with physicians, so to care for patients, but to also bring the scientific aspect and the discover aspect to produce physician scientists.”

Those changes will continue in the areas of technology, facility expansion and biomedical research, Clinchot said.

Ellison said he’s optimistic about what can be achieved as the college continues to move forward.

“We need to reflect on the past and build on the future,” Ellison said.

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