School History

The story of West Virginia University's Health Sciences Center is a story of growth and change. WVU was established as a land grant university and named the Agricultural College of West Virginia in 1867. Just a year later the name was changed to West Virginia University.

Today, WVU's Health Sciences Campus is a large, modern medical complex that includes Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health, three hospitals, a physician office building, state-of-the-art cancer and eye centers and a $40 million facility that houses the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, named for U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller's mother, who died of Alzheimer's disease.

The School of Medicine serves more than 2,500 students with a variety of educational programs -- including medicine, physical and occupational therapy, laboratory science (formerly medical technology), exercise physiology, continuing medical education, public health sciences and others. Faculty members provide advanced clinical care to more than 100,000 West Virginians throughout the state. The institution is making a major investment in new state-of-the-art facilities and improvements in education, research, and clinical care.

Ruby Hospital underwent an expansion of beds and operating rooms beginning in 2003, and plans for additional expansion including another more than 100 bed patient care tower and new emergency department facilities are in progress.

  • 1887:

    The HICK HOUSE was the first medical school building in the State of West Virginia. Constructed in 1892 in Falling Run Hollow below Woodburn Hall, it was intended to provide space for dissection of about 10 cadavers. Dr. James Hartington, appointed to the university faculty in 1887 as the first full time Professor of Anatomy, Physiology and Hygiene secured the $350 needed to construct the 14" x 20" building. It served Medical instruction for about ten years and provided material for area storytellers for many more. The origins of the name "Hick" are not known, but it probably represents a local corruption of the Latin burial phrase "Hic Jacet" (here lies…). Whether true or not, cadavers here were known as "hicks," rather than "stiffs."

  • 1903:

    Some medical courses were part of the curriculum in the university's earliest years, but the first comprehensive medical education program was not established until 1903. An agreement with the College of Physicians in Baltimore allowed WVU students to complete their first two years of medical education in Morgantown and their final two years in Maryland.

  • 1912:

    Independent school offering a 2 year basic science curriculum is established

  • 1912:

    John H. Simpson named first Dean

  • 1916:

    The Two-Year Medical School Building (1916-1957) featured three floors for classrooms, plus a basement for the preparation and storage of cadavers. The basement abounded with rats, and students had to carry their own cadavers up from the basement to an outside door, around the exterior of the building, then back in and up three flights to the gross anatomy labs located on the top floor.

  • 1945:

    Medical Technology program established within the School

  • 1951:

    In 1951, the West Virginia legislature passed a tax on soft drinks, known as the "pop tax," to fund the construction of new health sciences center and University Hospital.

  • 1957:

    School moves from main campus to new Health Sciences Building with the Pylons marking the entrance to the building. The Pylons are a work of art, reflecting the history that marks the entrance to the health sciences center.

  • 1960:

    In 1960, University Hospital opened and the WVU School of Medicine established a four-year curriculum and the University Hospital opens for patients.

  • 1961:

    First Physical Therapy graduates awarded degrees

  • 1962:

    The School awarded its first Doctor of Medicine - MD degrees in 1962.

  • 1962:

    Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society Chapter established

  • 1971:

    Incorporation of faculty practice plan known as University Health Associates

  • 1972:

    In 1972, the Charleston Division of the Health Sciences Center was established, the first medical school branch campus in the nation.

  • 1985:

    UHA opens the first MRI in West Virginia

  • 1988:

    Ruby Memorial Hospital opened in 1988, replacing University Hospital, and includes: Children's Hospital, Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, and Chestnut Ridge Hospital, a psychiatric and chemical dependency facility, also opened in 1988.

  • 1988:

    UHA opens its first clinic at Cheat Lake location

  • 1990:

    The Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center (MBRCC), Physician Office Center, and Mountainview Rehabilitation Hospital opened in 1990. The Physician Office Center replaced the old ambulatory clinics.

  • 1993:

    In 1993, the name of the Health Sciences Center was changed to Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at West Virginia University in honor of longstanding U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.

  • 1993:

    Exercise Physiology transfers from College of Physical Education

  • 1998:

    First MPH degree awarded

  • 1999:

    First Graduates in Occupational Therapy

  • 1999:

    Clark Sleeth Family Medicine Center opens on the ground floor of the HSC

  • 2000:

    Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (RNI) opens

  • 2001:

    WVU Eye Institute opens

  • 2001:

    WVU Physicians of Charleston (WVUPC) begins operation as separate practice plan, supporting the mission of the School of Medicine's Charleston Campus

  • 2002:

    Eastern Panhandle Division established

  • 2004:

    Capital campaign reaches its goal of $100 million

  • 2005:

    Ruby Memorial Hospital expansion opens

  • 2007:

    Learning Center opens with library renovation, new classrooms, and atrium

  • 2009:

    Erma Byrd Biomedical Research Building opens and Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center expansion opens

  • 2009:

    STEPS Center opens as the first multidisciplinary simulation education center for students and residents training on the Morgantown campus

  • 2009:

    University President Clements appoints Christopher Colenda, MD, MPH as the first Chancellor for Health Sciences

  • 2010:

    Chancellor Colenda names Arthur J. Ross, III, MD as the Dean of the School of Medicine

  • 2011:

    School of Medicine celebrates 50 years of offering accredited GME programs which began in 1961 with Surgery, Anesthesia, Pediatrics and Internal Medicine

  • 2011:

    WVU Hospitals and University Health Associates execute a joint operating agreement for the clinical enterprise and begin operating as WVUHealthcare

  • 2012:

    Dean Ross establishes three new departments: Translational Research, Radiation Oncology and Medical Education

  • 2012:

    The Department of Community Medicine breaks away from the School of Medicine and becomes the 5th school in the comprehensive health sciences center with the establishment of the first School of Public Health in the state of West Virginia