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Medical Department, University of Oregon

Portland, Oregon



Early University of Oregon yearbooks are available through Scholar’s Bank.  Catalogues from 1898 are available through HathiTrust.  The Flexner Report is on Ancestry.  The Eugene Guard carried some school news.

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The Medical Department, created by a group of Portland physicians, was chartered by the University of Oregon in 1887, opening for fourteen students that fall.  The two-year program was extended to three years in 1889 and to four years in 1898. The first graduation class in 1888 had seven members; that of 1911 had 16.  In 1898 total enrollment was 64; the 1912 catalogue shows 73, so the school remained small.  None of the faculty taught full time.  After the turn of the century, departments of Dermatology and Syphilis, Medical Jurisprudence, Physical Diagnosis, Hygiene, and Embryology were added to the standard medical college departments. 


In 1908 the Eugene Guard reported that the Department was “under the ban” of the American Medical Association. 


The Flexner Report issued in 1910 was not kind to U.O.M.D., finding only the bacteriological laboratory to praise.  It singled out for criticism the "less than a high school education" entrance requirement, the “wretchedly kept” building, the small library, the perfunctory laboratory instruction, the clinical experience in which students were only allowed “to look on,” and the level of state funding ($1,000 annually).  Overall, the report concluded that the school had “no justification for its existence.”


In an arrangement described as  “mutual and friendly,” the smaller Willamette University College of Medicine—also castigated by Flexner—merged with the University of Oregon Medical Department in 1913.  Two years later the reorganized and better financed school assumed the name Medical School of the University of Oregon, the largest medical school in a four-state area.  Today it is a component of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.


In 1903 the Medical Department received a chapter of Alpha Kappa Kappa medical fraternity.  By the 1911-12 school year it had 22 members.

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Bricks and Mortar

Classes began in a frame structure at 22nd and Marshall Streets.  The catalog notes a single lecture room with an anatomical laboratory.  By 1891 the building had been renovated and relocated to the corner of 23rd Street and Lovejoy.  The frame building was now three-stories with lecture rooms measuring 31 x 38 feet on the lower floors with a dissecting room of the same dimensions on the third floor.  The building now contained laboratories for chemistry, histology, pathology, and bacteriology as well as a museum.  Heated by hot water, it featured both gas and electric lights. 


The catalog noted that Portland offered “exceptional clinical advantages” for medical students.  The 230-bed Good Samaritan Hospital was across the street.  The 275-bed St. Vincent’s Hospital was a five-minute walk away.  


In 1919 Following the merger and the name change, Medical School of the University of Oregon moved to a new facility on Marquam Hill.  On May 29, 1919 one week after classes closed, the Marshall Street building burned before equipment and many chemicals had been transferred.  While the ruins were being razed a cadaver was found and buried.

The 1891-1919 college building.  Image from the 1898 catalog


            Team name: Newspapers refer to teams as “Medics”

            School colors: Presumable Lemon and Green, the colors of the University of Oregon

                                    from 1894.


At various times, from at least 1894, the Medical Department fielded football, baseball, basketball, and track teams. Some U.O.M.D. matriculates had played football for other colleges.  In 1902 the Eugene Guard noted that the Medical Department team was made up of “a number of old college stars.”  In fact, some Medics made the two-hour trek to Eugene to play on the University team, and some played for the powerful Multnomah Athletic Club team in Portland.

Newspapers show the Medics losing to Pacific University 16-0 in 1901, to the University 11-0 in 1902 and to what is now Oregon State 22-0 in 1904.  There were scoreless ties with Pacific in 1906 and to North Pacific Dental in 1906. 


In 1913, the school’s last before the merger, U.O.M.D. entered a track team in the Columbia University indoor meet and was one of the founders of a Portland college baseball league along with the law school, North Pacific Dental, and Christian Brothers Business College.

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Medical Department 1894 football team.  Image from  Used under Creative Commons license.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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