Medical Department Arkansas Industrial University
Little Rock, Arkansas
The 1910 Cardinal has a section on the Medical Department. The early University of Arkansas catalogs also cover the Medical Department. The Arkansas Gazette carried ads and news. Encyclopedia of Arkansas has a short history of the school.
In 1873 the state legislature of Arkansas passed an act allowing dissection, thus creating the basis for medical study. The first medical college in Arkansas was founded by eight members of the Pulaski County Medical Association who put up $5,000 to buy property and operate the college, which opened on October 8, 1879 in Little Rock. Beginning with 22 students, the Medical Department remained small, reaching 50 students in 1886 and not topping 100 until 1891. Flexner lists enrollment as 179 in 1909. While the school was accepted as the Medical Department of the state university in Fayetteville, it received no state support.
The program began as three years of 20 weeks each, increased to 24 weeks in 1891. The 1910 Cardinal shows a four-year program. The program as outlined in the first catalogs was as follows: First-year students studied Anatomy, Physiology, and Chemistry. In the second-year focused on Materia Medica and Therapeutics and Clinical Surgery. Third-year students studied Obstetrics and Gynecology along with Practice of Medicine.
The Arkansas Gazette has an article on a 160-member secret society called the Doodlers’ Club. Dressed in night shirts and white caps, they paraded at night in downtown Little Rock, chanting:
Saw bone! Jaw bone!
Groan and yell!
Stomach and jaw!
U. of A. Medics
Rah, rah, rah!
The 1909 Flexner Report on the Medical Department was scathing. It found the school to be without “a single redeeming feature,” and found it incredible that the state university “should permit its name to shelter” such a school. In particular the report criticized the lack of laboratory facilities and the limited clinical opportunities provided for students.
In 1911 the state merged the Medical Department with College of Physicians and Surgeons of Little Rock and provided state support for the first time. Today the University of Arkansas for Medical Science is the state’s top research facility with an enrollment approaching 3,000.
Bricks and Mortar
The initial $650 from each of the eight physicians was sufficient to purchase the old Sperindo Hotel on Second Street between Main and Louisiana, a location “well situated for convenience.” The Sperindo was a three-story brick structure with stone and iron front. Catalogs note that it featured two large general lecture halls and one of the “best arranged dissecting rooms in the country.”
Encyclopedia says that a dispensary was located next door in the Fones Hardware Store. A new City Hospital with 30 beds was completed around 1890, replacing a hospital operated by the Ladies’ Benevolent Association of Little Rock. Catalogs state that the new hospital provided “ample material” for students to see every kind of disease. But Flexnor complained that students were denied ward experience since patients were brought over to the college building for clinical work.
Increased enrollment led to the construction of a new college building at the corner of Second and Sherman Streets. This also was a three-story brick structure containing a large lecture hall, an amphitheater, three dissecting rooms, a library with reading room, and a museum. Part of Flexner’s criticism was that for its first thirty years the Medical Department had no laboratories.
Sperindo Hotel. Image from Arkansas Industrial University catalog.
Arkansas Gazette refers to teams as “Medics.”
Arkansas Gazette shows that the 1908 Medics defeated West End Athletics 6-0 and also had games with Arkansas College of Batesville, and the Argenta Athletic Club in addition to a 5-0 loss to Arkansas Normal. The Cardinal shows that in addition to a scoreless draw with Arkansas Normal, the Medics lost to Little Rock College 13-0 and defeated College of Physicians and Surgeons 15-0 for the “Sawbone Championship.”
The Medics also played baseball in the Little Rock Interscholastic League. Games were against Little Rock College, Little Rock High School, and the Deaf Mute Institute. The Medics finished second in the league but claimed the collegiate championship of the state.
Several “Wearers of the Medical ‘A’” do not appear in the list of students of the school.
1909 Medical Department football team. Image from the 1910 Cardinal.