Viewing page 7 of 40

[[decorative border]]

As the lecture rooms in the Medical College were still unfinished, this course of lectures was given in a frame building "situated on the east side of the Seventh street road a little beyond the boundary."

The growth and expansion of any medical college depends largely upon its facilities.  While it is true that upon the lecturers and teachers of pre-clinical subjects, lies the burden of building the strong foundations whereon the giant superstructure of clinical instruction can be firmly rested; nevertheless it must be borne in mind, that the superstructure forms the important and crucial test in this world of stark realism    In other words, our ability to perform a given task, take precedence over a theoretical knowledge of the task.
And so, the hospital with its clinical advantages plays a very important part of the training of doctors.

The Medical Department of Howard University has been extremely fortunate in having access to such an institution - Freedmen's Hospital.  It will not, therefore, be amiss to make some allusion to its inception.

During the later years of our great civil war, owing to disorganization of industrial pursuits throughout the country, and particularly in the recalcitrant South, large numbers of freed persons (Negroes) -  men, women  and children - migrated to the large cities and along the frontiers of the war-ridden southern states.  A condition of abject poverty ensued.  In its wake, followed disease and death.  Accordingly, thereof Fredemen's Bureau established a number of hospitals and dispensaries at various strategic points for the care of the sick and indigent freed or "contrabands" as they were termed.
In the city of Washington, in 1862, a few old houses situated in the eastern section were pressed into service.  These buildings were very inadequate.  Hence, later in that year, there were erected frame one-story buildings upon "a square of ground bounded by R and S, Twelfth and Thirteenth streets."

At first, this site was called "Camp Barker," but in 1863, its name was changed to Freedmen's Hospital.

In January, 1865, these buildings were razed and new quarters erected upon a "plot of ground bounded by Vermont avenue, Fourteenth, L and M streets, northwest.

The charter of Howard University, in which a Medical Department was provided for, contained also provision for hospital connected with the department.  Plans were, therefore, made by the Freedmen's Bureau to erect suitable buildings on the University grounds and transfer to them the "Freedmen's Hospital."
In 1869, the hospital was transferred to the suitable buildings on the university grounds.  These buildings consisted of a main brick strutter four and a half stories high, and contained, in addition to wards and other hospital necessities, lecture halls for medical instruction.

[[end page]]
[[start page]]

[[decorative border]]

The primary purposes for which this hospital was built was as an asylum.  Gradually it was transformed into a general hospital under the charge of the Medical faculty.

Construction on the present buildings was begun in 1907, but occupancy took place in 1908.

The Department of the Interior is now responsible for its upkeep.

The Medical School has always enjoyed and still enjoys use of this hospital as a clinic for its students on condition that free clinics be maintained for the people.

The first classes from the Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy were graduated in 1869, and classes have been graduated every year since.

On its first classification by the American Medical Association, the Medical College was rated in class A, and have every since continued in the same class.

Time gently speeds on winged feet.  Many changes and additions take place.  A chair of Ophthalmology was added in 1871, the Medical Department of Chemistry was dropped, and succeeded by a University Department of Chemistry.

The year 1874 gave birth to a startling announcement:  Fees for tuition were to be abolished, and only matriculation and graduation fees were to be charged?

This daring innovation and well meaning philanthropic gesture could not last very long.

The cost of medical education was increasing; professors were sadly underpaid, and suffered severe financial embarrassment.  Moreover, no help was forthcoming from the university authorities.  Therefore, in 1891, the phrase, "no charge for tuition" was omitted from the special notice.

In this year, a course in Practical Dentistry was given to the Medical class.  However it was not until 1883-84 that we find Dentistry organized as a systematic course and a distinct entity in the Medical Department.

Again, an innovation!  The announcement of the twenty-third session, 1890-1891, stated that classes would last six months, one month longer than previously.

"The faculty earnestly recommended a four years' course; students electing the same should so state when they matriculated and the fee to them for he fourth year would be remitted."

This recommendation became a reality in 1892.  Students were required to attend four courses of lectures in separate years and pass a satisfactory examination in each branch of study before becoming eligible for the degree of Doctor of Medicine.

The records of our school show that, from its very inception until the present day, its faculty, management and friends have been imbued with a spirit of altruism, self-sacrifice, unswerving determination and devotion
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact