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University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Penn Med logo.png
Established 1765
Type Private
Dean Dr. Arthur H. Rubenstein
Faculty 1,700 full time
Students 725
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Campus Urban
John Morgan Hall at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

The University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine (also referred to as Penn Med), presently located in the University City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the United States's first school of medicine, founded in 1765 at the College of Philadelphia, as the University was then called. It is widely regarded as one of the world's top medical schools, and in 2009, was ranked third overall among research-based medical schools by U.S. News & World Report. [1] In fiscal year 2007, the School was awarded $556 million in research funding, of which $405 million came from the National Institutes of Health. This ranks Penn second among medical schools in the United States in terms of research funding.[2]



The school's young founder, John Morgan, was among the school's Edinburgh, Scotland educated faculty. In the autumn of 1765, students enrolled for "anatomical lectures" and a course on "the theory and practice of physick." Modelling the School after the University of Edinburgh, they emphasized the need for supplement medical lectures with bedside teaching, which they had made available to them at Pennsylvania Hospital by the practitioners there.

The School of Medicine's faculty was nationally renowned: Benjamin Rush (medicine), Philip Syng Physick (surgery), Robert Hare (chemistry) and, around the 1850s, William Pepper (medicine) and Joseph Leidy (anatomy). In 1847, the group of physicians who organized the American Medical Association effectively gave recognition to the School's fame by naming the AMA's first president Nathaniel Chapman, Professor of Medicine at the School.

Current campus

In the 1870s, the university closed its campus in Center City, Philadelphia and established a new location across the Schuylkill River in West Philadelphia just north of the Blockley Almshouse. As part of this move, the School of Medicine's faculty persuaded the University's trustees to build a teaching hospital on the new campus, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). At the Hospital, the faculty of the School played an integral part in promoting and implementing an important aspect of the Flexner Report of 1910: to have a bedside teaching program specifically conducted by appointed clinical faculty.

The administrative offices of the School of Medicine are primarily located within Stemmler Hall and the John Morgan Building. Most educational and research buildings of the School are located on the main campus of the University of Pennsylvania within a triangle made up of Hamilton Walk, University Avenue, and Civic Center Blvd.

The Penn School of Nursing building and the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office are both located within the School of Medicine complex.

Medical Advancements

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the School of Medicine was one of the earliest to encourage the development of the emerging medical specialties: neurosurgery, ophthalmology, dermatology, and radiology. Between 1910 and 1939, the chairman of the Department of Pharmacology, Alfred Newton Richards, played a significant role in developing the University as an authority of medical science, helping the United States to catch up with European medicine and begin to make significant advances in biomedical science.

In the 1950s, Dr. Jonathon E. Rhoads of the the Department of Surgery (which he would later go on to head for many years), pioneered the successful use of total parenteral nutrition (TPN) for patients unable to tolerate nutrition through their GI tract.[3]

In the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. C. William Schwab, a trauma surgeon, led numerous advances in the concept of damage control surgery for severely injured trauma patients. [4]

In the 1990s and 2000s, Dr Paul Offit, a professor of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, lead the scientific advances behind the modern RotaTeq vaccine for infectious childhood diarrhea.

Medical Curriculum

Benchmark changes in the understanding of medical science and the practice of medicine have necessitated that the School change its methods of teaching, as well as its curriculum. Large changes were made in 1968, 1970, 1981, 1987, and 1997. The last significant change in 1997 brought about the institution of Curriculum 2000, "an integrated, multidisciplinary curriculum which emphasizes small group instruction, self directed learning and flexibility."[1] Three themes, Science of Medicine, Art and Practice of Medicine, and Professionalism and Humanism, were developed by focus groups consisting of department chairpersons, course directors, and students. Six "Modules", 1-6, subdivide the curriculum.

Curriculum 2000

Module 1: The first five months, from August to December of the first year, teach the basic science of medicine. Subjects include histology, genetics, gross anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, epidemiology, and immunology and microbiology. These first classes are graded as Pass/Fail only. [5]

Module 2: After students successfully pass Module 1, they begin a year-long (January-December) block of courses known in the Curriculum 2000 nomenclature as Module 2. These courses are systems-based, that is, the physiology, pathology, and pharmacology of organ systems (such as the cardiovascular system) are taught together. Unlike Module 1, Module 2 courses are graded on Honors-Pass-Fail.[6]

As of 2010, Module 2 was comprised of:

  • Mechanisms of Disease and Therapeutic Interventions (an introduction to Pathology, as well as systems-based teaching of Hematology and Oncology)
  • Brain and Behavior (Neuroscience, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry)
  • Reproduction
  • Endocrine
  • Gastrointestinal

Summer Break (approximately 8 weeks)

  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • Orthopedics
  • Renal and Electrolyte
  • Pulmonary
  • Infectious Diseases

Module 3: Known as "Technology and Practice of Medicine", Module 3 runs concurrently with Module 2, two afternoons a week. Subjects include Clinical Decision Making (Evidence Based Medicine), Health Care Systems, Differential Diagnosis, and an Introduction to Clinical Medicine (History-Taking and the Physical Exam). Module 3 is strictly Pass-Fail. [7]

Module 4: Also known as the clinical or clerkship year. The Curriculum 2000 structure is unusual in modern US medical schools, in that Penn students enter the clerkships (hospital-based clinical rotations) in January of their second year, rather than in July or August of their third year. (Other schools whose students enter the clerkships early include Baylor College of Medicine and Duke University School of Medicine.)

All students take the same Module 4 rotations, but do not take them in the same order, nor do they necessarily take them at the same location. Most clinical rotations in Module 4 are located at the University's main teaching hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). All students take their inpatient Pediatrics rotation at the nearby, affiliated Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). However, some students may choose to take certain rotations, such as Family Practice or OB/GYN, at affiliated hospitals across the region.

Module 4 is a 48-week curriculum divided into four 12-week blocks.[8] These include:

  • Medicine (Eight weeks of inpatient medicine, four weeks of outpatient medicine or "Family Practice")
  • Surgery (Eight weeks of general and sub-specialized surgery, three weeks of Emergency Medicine, and one week of Anesthesia)
  • Pediatrics and OB/GYN (six weeks each)
  • Neurology (three weeks), Psychiatry (six weeks), and Ophthalmology, Otorhinolaryngology (ENT), Orthopedics (one week each, known to students as the "O"s)

At the end of most clinical rotations, students must take national, standardized "Shelf" exam and record a passing score. A combination of evaluations from attending physicians, fellows and residents, and the shelf exam score lead to final grades in Module 4 of Honors - High Pass - Pass - Fail for each rotation (except the one-week "O"s rotations, which are pass-fail and use in-house exams rather than Shelf exams).

Module 5: That students begin the clerkship year (Module 4) six months before many of their counterparts at other medical schools allows an extra six months between finishing the core clerkships, above, and graduation. Module 5, then, comprises from January of the third year until Graduation in May of the fourth year. Students have more flexibility in their studies in this Module than elsewhere in the curriculum. Grading in Module 5 depends upon the individual rotation, although most are Honors - High Pass - Pass - Fail. [9]

During Module 5, students must:

  • Take Step 1 and Step 2 (CK/CS) of the United States Medical Licensing Examination.
  • Take electives in areas of medicine that interest them and decide what field of medicine to pursue.
  • Complete a "sub-internship," in which the student takes on the role of an intern in a medical or pediatrics inpatient team. Alternatively, students may perform their sub-internship in the Emergency Department.
  • Complete at least three months of research in either the basic or clinical sciences (known in Curriculum 2000 as "Scholarly Pursuit").
  • Take courses in Medical Ethics and "Frontiers," in which students learn about new, innovative medical practices.
  • Apply to and interview at residency programs in the specialty of their choice.

Module 6: This module runs the length of all four years of Curriculum 2000, and deals with professionalism and humanism in medicine. Students have longitudinal small groups, known as "Doctoring" groups, that discuss ethics, humanism, and professionalism in the medical career. Topics change from the theoretical, in the beginning of Module 6, to the more practical, as students enter and finish the clerkships. [10]

Departments of the School of Medicine

Historical roster listing the Professors and Clinical Professors of the Department of Medicine
John Morgan Hall as seen in a postcard sent in 1908

The School of Medicine has departments in the following basic science subjects: Biochemistry and Biophysics, Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Cancer Biology, Cell and Developmental Biology, Genetics, Genomics and Computational Biology, Medical Ethics, Microbiology, Neuroscience, Pharmacology, and Physiology.

The school also has departments in the following clinical practices: Anesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Family Practice and Community Medicine, Medicine, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ophthalmology (See Scheie Eye Institute ), Orthopaedic Surgery, Otorhinolaryngology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Pediatrics (See Children's Hospital of Philadelphia), Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Psychiatry, Radiation Oncology, Radiology, and Surgery.


Centers and Institutes

  • Abramson Cancer Center
  • Cardiovascular Institute
  • Center for AIDS Research
  • Center for Bioethics
  • Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health
  • Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology
  • General Clinical Research Center
  • Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism
  • Institute for Medicine and Engineering
  • Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics
  • Institute on Aging
  • Leonard Davis Institute
  • Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences
  • Pennsylvania Muscle Institute
  • Abramson Institute
  • Alzheimer's Disease Center
  • Center for Cognitive Therapy (Dept. of Psychiatry)
  • Center for Functional Neuroimaging (Depts. of Radiology and Neurology)
  • Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research (Dept. of Psychiatry)
  • Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Disease (Dept. of Medicine)
  • Center for Neurobiology and Behavior (Dept. of Psychiatry)
  • Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (Dept. of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine)
  • Center for Psychotherapy Research (Dept. of Psychiatry)
  • Center for Studies of Addiction (Dept. of Psychiatry)
  • Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (Dept. of Psychiatry)
  • Deafness and Family Communication Center (Dept. of Pediatrics)
  • Eldridge Reeves Johnson Foundation (Dept. of Biochemistry/Biophysics)
  • Institute for Environmental Medicine (Dept. of Physiology)
  • Metabolic Magnetic Resonance Research and Computing Center (MMRRCC) (Dept. of Radiology)
  • Mood and Anxiety Research and Treatment Program (Dept. of Psychiatry)
  • Penn Lung Center (Dept. of Medicine)
  • Smell and Taste Center (Dept. of Otorhinolaryngology)

Select notable alumni



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