ANNALS OF IOWA
VOL. VII. IOWA CITY, JANUARY, 1869. No. I.
MEDICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE IOWA STATE
BY S. W. HUFF, H. D.
The Medical Department of the State University is
beginning to make a part of the history of that institution, and notwithstanding
the briefness of its history, it seems to be not only not clearly understood,
but misapprehended and misunderstood, judging from a few newspaper articles
which have come under our notice. We propose to give the action which has
transpired relative to it as we know it, and the reasons which influenced and
determined action as we understand them.
In the enactment of the last (12th) General Assembly
which appropriated twenty thousand dollars for the uses of the University,
authority was given its Trustees to provide for "such other Departments as
they may deem proper to establish."
Vested with this authority which reads very much like a
mandate to establish other departments, the trustees at their annual meeting in
June last established the Law Department, drawing partly from the money
appropriated by the State, and depending partly upon receipts to be derived from
students for its support.
The chairs were immediately filled by competent
gentlemen, and the department was opened at once. A success from the beginning.
A class of twenty students have been pursuing. their legal studies since the
opening of the University year, under the instruction of the three eminent
jurists who fill the respective chairs of the department.
At that meeting of the board which established the Law
Department, the Medical Department was a subject considered, but its
establishment was accompanied by greater and graver difficulties than of the
former. And although the board were unanimous in opinion as to the desirableness
of the department, which would complete the plan contemplated in the organic law
of the commonwealth, in building up a University for the instruction and
complete education of its youth, and also of the special necessity at this time,
with as little delay as possible, of a first class medical school within the
State, and within reasonably easy access to those desiring to qualify themselves
for the duties of that useful and honorable profession. The difficulties which
confronted them seemed at that time insurmountable.
The department of medicine is of necessity larger and
more expensive than any other single department. The greater number of separate
sciences embraced within its curriculum of study, demands a greater number of
separate chairs, each of which implies compensation to a teacher. Its prominent
field of studies are such of the natural sciences, as require apparatus,
cabinets of collections, material for physical investigation, and altogether
require amplitude of room to give favorable facilities for the pursuit of the
various branches, requiring an expenditure beyond the remnant of the
appropriation left after launching the law department and meeting the incidental
expenses of the institution for the biennial period to the next legislature.
The subject was therefore laid over without definite
action for future consideration, and the board adjourned to meet in September.
September came, and with it came the Board of Trustees
to the State University. a board nearly full. One member only being absent. The
subject of the Medical Department came up in the regular order of business—of
the "unfinished business" of the June session, and the board entered
upon its consideration with views and purposes materially modified since that
meeting. Approaching it not as then as a desirable end unattainable, but as a
proposition reasonably feasible of accomplishment: for in the meantime many of
the difficulties which environed its inception had been removed, or found
removable. Thus: a large item in computing its expense had been the salaries of
the professors of the seven chairs necessary to the department. But if seven
competent gentlemen such as the board would be satisfied to install into the
seven chairs permanently,—such as they should, after thorough enquiry become
satisfied possessed the requisite qualifications for medical teachers, and
should select for the positions; would be willing to discharge the duties of the
introductory term without pay for that term; trusting to the intelligent and
liberal action of the next legislature, which would convene before the time for
the opening of the second term, to provide for the future of the department,
this the chiefest difficulty in the way was removed.
2d. Another item of expense of magnitude in the
computation had been the procuring and fitting up of suitable rooms for its use.
But it was now settled upon that certain rooms in one of the University
buildings, could with but slight inconvenience to other University interests, be
diverted from their present use, and appropriated to this, and with but a few
hundred dollars expense, be conveniently fitted for its purposes.
3d. The splendid and costly chemical laboratory
apparatus and philosophical appointments of the University could by giving the
professor of that department of the University charge of the chair of chemistry
in the medical department, be made to wipe out another heavy expenditure always
to be counted in making up the bill of items of a medical school and at the same
time give to the students of the department the benefit of the finest apparatus
in the country, and talent of the highest order in this department of science.
Granting then that these points could be secured, the
way seemed opened to its immediate establishment, with the same prospect of
immediate success which had attended that of the law department, already entered
upon its career of usefulness The whole plan seemed practicable upon
investigation, and at the conclusion of the deliberations of the board, the
following resolutions were unanimously agreed to as a basis of future action.
Resolved, That there be and hereby is established a
department in the University which shall be styled the Medical Department.
Resolved, That the Faculty of the Medical Department
shall consist of the President of the University and the Professors occupying
the several chairs of the department.
Resolved, That the chairs of the department shall for
the present be styled as follows:
3d. Materia Medica.
5th. Physiology and Microscopic Anatomy.
6th. Principles and Practice of Medicine.
Resolved, That all tuitions and fees received from the
students of the department, shall ensure to the benefit of the department.
Resolved, That the several Professors in said
department shall serve without compensation until such time as the Board of
Trustees or the legislature shall provide for the same.
Resolved, That the
opening of the department shall take place, if practicable, at the commencement
of the University year of 1869 and 1870, and instruction shall be given therein
until the last week in March, and so continue from year to year.
Resolved, That the immediate government of the
department shall be in the Faculty, who shall provide all needful rules and
regulations for the government of the department, and report the same to the
Board of Trustees for approval, and shall at the close of each year report to
the board the past operations and present conditions and wants of the
department, with such other matter as they shall deem proper.
Resolved, That a committee of three, consisting of
Messrs. Black, Bullis and Ross, be appointed, whose duty it shall be to
recommend to the board the names of suitable persons to be elected as Professors
in the department, and to make all other needful provisions for the successful
opening of the department at the time above indicated, and to the end that the
persons so recommended may have timely notice of their election, said committee,
through their Chairman, President Black, shall report the names of the persons
and the reasons of their nomination to each member of the board by letter; and
it shall be the duty of each member of the board to endorse his approval or
disapproval on said report, and return the report and endorsement to the
chairman, and if a majority of the board shall approve of the action of the
committee, then such action shall be taken as binding on the board, and the
chairman of said committee shall immediately notify the Professors-elect of
The committee appointed under this resolution gave
earnest attention to the work of appropriately filling the chairs of the
department, reduced to six by the adoption of the plan of establishment; the
chair of chemistry, by Prof. Hinrich, being, as before indicated, a part of the
plan submitted. Judge Dillon was at once and unanimously fixed upon for the
additional chair of medical jurisprudence. We believe that these gentlemen both
consented to give to the infant department the benefit of their great abilities
in the respective duties of these positions.
remained to be filled. Were there among the medical men of the State, eminent
for scholarly acquirements and superior intelligence in their profession, that
number willing to give unpaid service for one College term of six months? It was
believed they would in due time be found.
At this point, however, commenced the prime difficulty
in the way of a speedy organization. Not for the want of applicants for the
positions, payless though they were. That applications or consents enough to
fill all the chairs several times over would be made or could be had, could not
have been doubted by the committee, or, if so, not very long; but that men fit
for the various positions, as teachers, could be found who could afford to give
the time and service required unpaid was the question of paramount interest to
be determined For this class of medical men are, as a rule, poor, the fact being
well established that it is the adroit men,—the managers,—the tacticians,—the
"strategists,"—the charlatanically inclined of the profession, and
not its thorough students and men of learning, who, under ordinary
circumstances, become rich from its practice. The tact of professional learning,
implies an amount of time given to study, and physical investigation, and
attendance to the details of scientific research, incompatible with that
watchfulness of financial transactions and "sharpness" of business
deal necessary to the acquisition and accumulation of riches.
One or two gentlemen of high professional standing and
superior qualifications, signified their willingness to accept positions upon
the terms proposed. It was thought others would, upon call, do likewise; but
acceptances were few, and the presentation of testimonials came in slowly.
However desirable the position may have been thought to be by gentlemen of the
competent class of the profession,—for a call to a professorship in the
medical department of the University of the State is not to be regarded
indifferently or treated lightly by the lover of medical science or the devotee
of professional practice,—as opening a field of usefulness not to be achieved
in the ordinary routine of professional business; and also as placing him under
the necessity of the pursuit of science with facilities for so doing which do
not obtain in its ordinary spheres of duty;—however desirable for these and
other reasons, and however high his appreciation of the value, the dignity and
the honor of the place, there is a broad interest to be first considered, and
the old question of the "where withal to be fed and clothed" for
himself and the dependent ones, before so great a change and so great a
pecuniary sacrifice as six months absence or even abstinence from business, with
its incidental risks and losses, are to be first settled in the mind before the
acceptance can be given. And besides, the appointment carries with it the
prospect of permanency— a permanent change of habits long established, and in
some cases possibly a necessary change of home and associations cherished. At
this date the chairs are not filled. That they will be with not many months
delay, there are very good reasons for believing, within the knowledge of the
During the first days of December, the Trustees held a
third meeting. The Board this time came together upon call of its President,
Governor Merrill, for the consideration of several important matters relative to
the interests of the University—concerning University buildings, and other
questions which had arisen since its last meeting. At this meeting the committee
appointed to nominate professors for the chairs of the medical department, took
occasion to report their action, and its discussion was a part of the
proceedings of the meeting. After mature consideration, action was continued by
the adoption of the following resolution offered by President Black:
Resolved, That the Board reiterate their conviction of
the necessity of a medical department in the University, and the desirableness
of its equipment as the way may be opened up; but inasmuch as the meeting is by
no means full, and the testimonials thus far too limited, the election of the
several chairs is postponed to the next meeting. and the committee on
Thus ends action upon the subject, and in this stage of
embryotic growth is the medical department of the State University.
We have thus followed, directly and succinctly, its
history, keeping in view the exact action, and the reasons therefore, as we
understand them. Whatever may be thought, even by the enemies of the department,—and
they are few—of the expediency of beginning its establishment at the present
time, it will be admitted that the Board have pursued a consistent and
undeviating course, going no faster nor further than facts and circumstances
justified, taking no step backward, and with increased encouragement at every
stage of the advance. That it is demanded by the necessities of the day, is
equally patent to those who give attention to the State's educational wants; and
at each step they have been sustained by approving words of the State's best
men, both in public and private life, and by the press with much unanimity, and
additionally entrenched in their convictions and judgment by every circumstance
and every fact which action and investigation has developed.
Approving the action which has been taken, its friends
throughout the State will patiently bide the fullness of time for the
culmination of their work.