In 2005, the University of Alabama School of Medicine at UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) celebrated its 60th anniversary as a four-year medical school in Alabama’s largest metropolitan area.
The School of Medicine, however, has a much older history of providing medical education within the state of Alabama. The school was founded in 1859 in the port city of Mobile. Originally a proprietary school, it graduated its first class of 14 the following spring. The school eventually became a four-year medical school under the direction of the University of Alabama and remained in Mobile until 1920 when the School of Medicine was transferred to the University’s campus in Tuscaloosa. There, the School of Medicine operated for over two decades as a two-year, basic sciences program, while the state of Alabama went without a four-year medical school. Under this system, students earned master’s degrees in medicine and transferred out of state to complete their clinical training. In 1945 the school was moved again, this time to Birmingham where it was reopened as a four-year school of medicine.
Today the School of Medicine at UAB has an enrollment of almost 600 students, with an additional 900 residents, interns, and postdoctoral fellows, and a full-time faculty of 842. Forty-four percent of the 2005 entering freshman class was female and 5% was African American. All students complete their first two years of basic science education in Birmingham, but clinical training during the last two years is divided among the UAB campus and two branch campuses located in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.
For the 2005 fiscal year, the School of Medicine ranked 18th in research funding from the National Institutes of Health with over $149 million in grants and contracts; seven departments within the school ranked in the top ten of their discipline in National Institutes of Health funding. UAB’s specialties in cardiology, AIDS, cancer, and rheumatology are nationally ranked educational and research programs.
The 900-bed University Hospital, a complex spanning more than five city blocks and containing over 2.1 million square feet of space, serves as the main clinical facility for the medical school. Adult outpatient medical services are provided in a five-story, 454,000-square-foot building that hosts over 1,500 patients per day. The medical school also has affiliations with numerous other entities, including The Children’s Hospital of Alabama, the Southern Research Institute, and the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Over the past six decades, the School of Medicine, the sprawling UAB Academic Health Center, and the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham have significantly changed the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama. One can only imagine what the next six decades will bring.
For more information about the University of Alabama School of Medicine at UAB, see (http://www.uab.edu/uasom).
Tim L. Pennycuff
Assistant Professor and University Archivist
Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham