A Longer History of Medical Education at Hamline

Improvement Bulletin, Oct. 14, 1899

 Just prior to reopening in St. Paul, in April 1880 Hamline acquired the St. Paul Medical School and reorganized it as the St. Paul Medical College, a medical department of Hamline University.[1]

But the partnership was discontinued after one year. It was no wonder. For even after planning to offer a four year medical course – which was lauded as the most modern form of medical education – the Hamline “Medical Department” was poorly staffed and had only a loose association with the University.

This was quickly ferreted out by leading medical educators. For example, the Medical and Surgical Reporter of Philadelphia wrote,

Inasmuch as the “Hamline University” has not a single medical student, and its “Professors” have been and are much more interested in their private practice than in medical education, it is easy to take a stand which involves no sacrifice nor even risk. Heroism and high principles are cheap at that price. [2]

The Michigan Medical News doubled down and added plenty of scare quotes to its own critique. It reported that the item in the Medical and Surgical Reporter,

dashes our hopes for how shall a “college” teach and wherewithal shall its “professors” be clad and fed if it have not students? Can the “professors” teach and clothe and feed each other? Nay. . . . it appears that “Hamline” exists only on paper and in the minds of its “professors,” and that the “full four years’ graded course” is a myth! [3]

Yet, the Hamline Catalogue for 1880-1881 listed some twenty medical students enrolled for the fall of 1880. Hamline’s commitment to coeducation extended to this early formal medical instruction, for the students included two sisters: Lizzie R. Wass and Annie T. Wass.[4] Unable to complete their training at Hamline University, they finished their medical education in 1882 at the Woman’s Medical College, Chicago [Woman’s Medical School, Northwestern university]. They returned to Minnesota and were admitted to the Minnesota State Medical Society. Annie specialized in general practice and pediatrics, while Lizzie specialized in nervous diseases and obstetrics.[5] The Drs. Wass later relocated to California and could be found practicing at the Los Angeles Woman’s Hospital.

Frederick A. Dunsmoor, M.D., illuminates the challenges and triumphs of Hamline’s attempt to provide a medical curriculum. He recalls that when the St. Paul Medical School was absorbed by Hamline University, “No professor received any compensation for his services.” He also remembers that the “first class had five matriculants, with an average of three in attendance.” Two of those three were Annie and Lizzie Wass, for he noted that the first class included “the two sisters, Drs. Wass, making an overwhelming majority of ladies in attendance, and evidencing our early recognition of woman’s fitness for the medical profession.”[6]

The Medical Department/School separated from Hamline in the fall of 1881, and organized into an independent teaching hospital. It reestablished itself a few years later, and Polk’s Medical Register noted that the St. Paul Medical College was organized in 1885 and was in operation until 1888 when it merged into the medical department of the University of Minnesota.

Medical College Graduation Oath
1895 Hamline Catalogue

But Hamline University still wanted wanted to offer medical education. The next time it aimed bigger and better. So once again medical instruction was in place at Hamline in 1895 when it acquired the Minneapolis College of Physicians and Surgeons, which had been in existence since 1883. The unit was renamed the Hamline College of Medicine and focused on educating both men and women students as Hamline had done previously. The faculty was increased to forty-one members, its preliminary educational requirements were raised, and the session was lengthened to eight months in order to ensure a full course of medical instruction.

The acquisition of the Minneapolis College of Physicians and Surgeons included a building that housed the college on the corner of Seventh Street and Sixth Avenue South in Minneapolis. Clinical instruction was conducted at St. Barnabas Hospital, Asbury Methodist Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children, and the Minneapolis City Hospital.[7]

The four year course of instruction included a curriculum recognizable to modern medical students: histology, biology, embryology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, surgical anatomy, therapeutics, pathology, obstetrics, pediatrics, physical diagnosis, dermatology, preventative medicine, psychological medicine, neurology, ophthalmology, surgery, diseases of women and children, and other instructional units.[8]

HU Medical College, Class of 1897. Unknown Repository

The class of 1897 included four women: Florence C. Baier, Julia Dealey, Carolyne E. Jackson, and Lutie L.D. Williams.[9] Three are included in this class picture. But which three are pictured?

The College of Medicine thrived. During the 1899-1900 school year, Hamline University built a large new building at 709 S 5th 5treet, at the corner of Fifth street and Seventh avenue south in Minneapolis, which increased the laboratory facilities available to instruction.[10]

Hamline University boasted it was “exceedingly fortunate” that the new building location was established “immediately opposite the large new buildings of the city hospital, giving unequalled clinical advantages, and the finest location for a medical college in the northwest.” The building included an amphitheater that seated 225, large classrooms, a dissecting room, laboratories, dispensary rooms on the ground floor, commodious waiting rooms, a student’s reading room, and separate ladies’ parlor and retiring room. All spaces were well lit with natural light.[11]

Laboratory Facilities. Hamline University Catalogue for 1889-1900.

This program of medical instruction was a part of Hamline University until 1907 when the Hamline trustees voted to merge the medical school with the University of Minnesota Medical School. It was official in the spring of 1908. In all, some 300 men and women physicians received their M.D. degree from Hamline’s medical school. At the time of merger with the University of Minnesota, Hamline’s was the longest surviving private medical education in Minnesota.

[1] St. Paul Daily Globe, April 8, 1880, p. 3
[2] Medical and Surgical Reporter, Oct. 9, 1880, p. 327
[3] Michigan Medical News, Oct. 28, 1880, p. 311
[4] Lizzie Rebecca Wass, b. 1854-unknown, and Annes (or Annis) Taylor Wass, 1850-1917.
[5] Woman’s Medical School Northwestern University … Class Histories 1870-1896. (Chicago: H.G. Cutler, 1896), p. 104.
[6] “The Minnesota Hospital College,” The Journal of the Minnesota State Medical Association and the Northwestern Lancet, Jan. 15, 1909, p. 43-44.
[7] “College of Medicine,” Hamline University Catalogue for 1895-1895, p. 64.
[8] “College of Medicine,” Hamline University Catalogue for 1895-1895, p. 66+.
[9] The 1897 alumni are listed in Hamline’s 1898-1899 Catalogue.
[10] J.T. Moore, “The College of Physicians and Surgeons,” The Journal of the Minnesota State Medical Association The Northwestern Lancet, Jan 15, 1909, p. 46.
[11] Hamline University 1889-1900 Catalogue. p. 54.