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Moments in Surgical History |

Medical Education in Early 19th Century America

Ira M. Rutkow, MD, MPH, DrPH
Arch Surg. 1999;134(4):453. doi:10.1001/archsurg.134.4.453.
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AFTER 1800, in an attempt to upgrade the level of formal medical education in America, medical colleges were being founded wherever there seemed to be large enough populations to financially support them. By 1810, 7 medical schools (University of Pennsylvania [1765]; King's College, now Columbia [1767]; Harvard [1782]; Dartmouth [1797]; College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York City [1807]; University of Maryland [1807]; and the short-lived institution at Brown University [1807]) were providing course work. The total number of medical students in attendance was approximately 650, 406 of whom were at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Early 19th century medical students were admitted to clinical lecture series by showing individually purchased attendance cards. Some of the cards were quite ornate; others were ordinary in appearance (Courtesy of Historical Collections, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Pa).

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