History of Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University is one of the premier Catholic universities in the country dedicated to providing excellence in education and health care. It is a private, Catholic, Jesuit University, sponsored and assisted by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Catholic religious order founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola in 1540. It is private by reason of its charter granted by the Missouri Legislature in 1832. Saint Louis University traces its history back to the foundation of Saint Louis Academy in 1818, three years before Missouri became a state. Founded by the Right Reverend Louis DuBourg, Bishop of Louisiana and the Floridas, the Academy was renamed “Saint Louis College” in 1820. In 1823, Belgian Jesuits from Maryland arrived in Missouri at the urgent invitation of Bishop DuBourg and John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War. They settled at Florissant, near St. Louis, where they organized an Indian school. Within a short time after this educational venture, they assumed direction of Saint Louis College, which had been administered for its first 9 years by members of the diocesan clergy. On December 28, 1832, Saint Louis College received its charter as “Saint Louis University” by an act of the Missouri Legislature. It was the first university charter west of the Mississippi River and is located in the heart of St. Louis, in a landscaped campus identified in the St. Louis skyline by its copper-topped buildings. Saint Louis University School of Medicine

The first step in the formation of the school was with the naming of the pioneer physiologist and military surgeon William Beaumont as Professor of Surgery in 1837. The next major step was in 1903 with the merging of the William Beaumont and Marion Sims Schools of Medicine to form the Saint Louis University School of Medicine on Grand Boulevard in central St. Louis. Milestones in the History of the Department of Internal Medicine

1905
This seems to be as far back as the records go. The earliest preserved Bulletin of the Medical Department of Saint Louis University (the Marion-Sims-Beaumont College of Medicine) indicates that competitive examinations were given to select graduates of the school for 1 year positions on the house staff of St Louis City Hospital and St Louis Female Hospital. Our present residency programs have their roots in this activity.

1911
Charles Hugh Neilson M.D. was appointed as first Director of the Department of Internal Medicine.

1924
Ralph A. Kinsella M.D. was appointed as Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr Kinsella was a part-time faculty member who maintained a private practice in St Louis. In the same year, Goronwy O. Broun M.D. became the first full time faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine.

1925
The University Hospital now comprised St Mary’s Hospital, St Mary’s Infirmary and Mount St Rose Hospital. Associated hospitals included Alexian Brothers, St Anthony’s and St John’s.

1930
Four graduate fellowships in internal medicine were established, each for a 2 year period. This was the beginning of formalization of training in internal medicine at Saint Louis University. Graduate fellows who completed the course and complied with other requirements received the degree of Master of Internal Medicine.

1933
Desloges Hospital opened; this eventually became the current University Hospital.

1934
Goronwy Broun M.D. Sr was appointed as Director of Resident Staff. The Assistant Director (and the person responible for Internal Medicine residents and, hence, our first program director) was Raymond Meuther M.D.

1936
The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) was first convened and the first internists certified. The first internist from Saint Louis University to be certified by the ABIM was Charles Hugh Nielson M.D.

1953
Philip A. Tumulty M.D. was appointed Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine when Dr Kinsella retired, but departed under controversial circumstances less than 1 year later.

1954
Goronwy O. Broun Sr M.D. became Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine and served until 1958. Subsequent chairmen included Rene Wegria M.D. (1959 to 1963), Thomas F. Frawley M.D. (1964 to 1973), Stephen M. Ayres M.D. who was appointed in 1975, Coy D. Fitch who served as chairman from 1985 to 2000 and D. Douglas Miller from 2000 to 2006. The John Cochran VA Medical Center opened. This affiliated hospital has been and remains a very important part of the department’s clinical, teaching and research activities.

1987
The Saint Louis University Hospital was expanded with the construction of Bordley Tower. The hospital was sold to Tenet Corporation by Saint Louis University in 1998.
Saint Louis University Faculty in Research.
Many important discoveries have been made at Saint Louis University over the years by faculty in the department of Internal Medicine, including:

  • Isolation for the first time of the viral agent responsible for St Louis Encephalitis (by G.O. Broun Sr, M.D.).
  • Ralph Kinsella Sr M.D. was the first to demonstrate that salicylates (such as aspirin) have anti-inflammatory effects. He also made a major contribution to the understanding of the pathogenesis of infective endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves.
  • Dr Gerard Mudd established the first major cardiac catheterization laboratory in Saint Louis between 1948 and 1951, thus establishing clinical research in cardiology which continues today.
  • Dr George Thoma, Professor Emeritus in the Division of Nuclear Medicine is generally acknowledged as the “Father of Nuclear Medicine” and was a pioneer in the use of radio-isotopes in diagnosis. The Division of Nuclear Medicine moved to the department of Radiology in 2007.
  • Dr William A. (Bill) Knight Jr. conducted research in gastrointestinal diseases and, among many other accomplishments, described the value of provocative tests for evaluating pancreatic function.

Dr Edward Doisy, chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, received the Nobel prize for his work leading to the discovery of vitamin K and understanding of its significance as well as the first discovery of estradiol.

More recently Saint Louis University researchers in the Department of Internal Medicine have achieved pre-eminence in vaccine research, gerontology, therapy of chronic viral hepatitis and liver disease, preventive medicine and bioterrorism. Some recent clinical discoveries at Saint Louis University include:

  • Participating in the team that discovered the gene responsible for hereditary hemochromatosis. Further funded work at this institution has delineated the functions of the HFE gene and its protein product and led to a clearer understanding of pathogenesis of hemochromatosis.
  • Establishing the role of ribavirin in combination antiviral therapy with interferon and ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C.
  • Development of nasally-administered influenza vaccines
  • The recent finding that the smallpox vaccine is effective at lower than usual doses, meaning that a greater number of doses is available to the general public.

The Centennial symbol with the words “100 Years of Excellence” was developed to celebrate the Centennial Celebration of the Department of Internal Medicine in 2011.  The department was established in 1911 with the appointment of its first director, Charles Hugh Neilson, M.D., and has served the city of St. Louis since that time through outstanding medical care, education and research.

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