In 1891, responding to a national concern for improving doctors' training, Washington University acquired the independent St. Louis Medical College and established a medical department. Missouri Medical College, also independent, joined the department in 1899, uniting the two oldest medical schools west of the Mississippi River.
A decade later, the young medical department was sharply criticized in a report on the state of medical education in the United States and Canada ' an assessment that found most medical institutions wholly inadequate. These findings provoked university board member Robert S. Brookings to transform the department into a modern medical school.
Working with the report's author, Abraham Flexner, Brookings set about installing the medical school with a full-time faculty, adequate endowment, modern laboratories and associated teaching hospitals. Among the first four department heads he recruited in 1910 was Joseph Erlanger, who went on to win the 1944 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
In 1919, Evarts Graham was appointed the first full-time head of surgery. Fourteen years later, he performed the first successful lung removal. In 1910, George Dock established a tradition of distinguished clinical research in the Department of Medicine.
Carl and Gerty Cori arrived at the School of Medicine in 1931 to join the Department of Pharmacology. In 1947, they won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research on the catalytic conversion of glycogen. Six other Nobelists received training under their auspices.
Women first gained admission to the student body in 1918; today, women make up half of each incoming class in medical education. In 1962, James L. Sweatt III, MD, became the first African American graduate of the School of Medicine. It took another 10 years, however, for another black student, Julian Mosley, MD '72, to matriculate. Today the school is proactively devoting resources to improving diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and in the medical field.
The school moved to its current location in the Central West End neighborhood in 1914. When the neighorhood began to falter in the second half of the 20th century, many institutions began to leave. Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital formed a coalition in 1962 that went on to lead a successful neighborhood revitalization effort that continues today, through the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation.