Celebrating 175 Years: 1846-2021
Learn about the people, places and events that have shaped our history from 1846-2021.
Join us as we travel 175 years into the past to tell the story of University at Buffalo’s medical school, how it was established in a thriving new metropolis on the shores of Lake Erie and grew in tandem with its populace to serve the City of Buffalo and Western New York.
Many of the school’s graduates—then as now—stayed and made their home here, providing the community with a steady supply of highly trained physicians, researchers, medical educators, public-health leaders and bold innovators. Others moved to new locales, but none has forgotten where they got their start . . .
Dr. Cyrenius Chapin, Buffalo’s first physician settles in the region.
British burn Buffalo, despite the negotiations of Dr. Chapin, a colonel during the War of 1812. Buffalonians rebuild their village, beginning with the aptly named Phoenix Tavern.
Erie County separates from Niagara County, and the Medical Society of Erie County is founded.
The western terminus of the Erie Canal opens in Buffalo.
Buffalo is incorporated as a city. Dr. Ebenezer Johnson is the first mayor.
First issue of the Buffalo Medical Journal is published. The Buffalo Medical Association is formed to provide a free interchange of medical opinions.
The University at Buffalo is founded with the establishment of the Medical Department, which remained the only department for 40 years. The first class graduates in 1847.
Sisters of Charity Hospital—the first regional hospital and first teaching hospital in Buffalo—opens under the leadership of Sister Ursula Mattingly. Housed in a former school building at the corner of Pearl and Virginia streets, the new hospital is sorely tested by a devastating cholera outbreak in 1849. Sister Ursula’s willingness to take a chance on new therapies led to the recovery of 80 of the 134 cholera patients admitted. By 1872, the hospital has outgrown its facilities and a new site is purchased on Main and Delavan.
The university constructs a medical school building at Main and Virginia streets.
Buffalo is the thirteenth largest city in the United States substantially larger than Detroit, Cleveland or Chicago.
Buffalo General Hospital is dedicated.
Buffalo General Hospital is designated a United States Army General Hospital. It receives nearly 100 hundred soldiers from New England regiments involved in the Civil War, many of whom are totally exhausted and more than half of whom die.
High Street is paved and sewers are installed eight years after the founding of Buffalo General Hospital.
The medical school has nine teachers. Incoming students are advised that “Good board, with room, fuel and lights, can be found for $4.50 to $6 per week.”
Millard Fillmore Hospital is founded as the Buffalo Homeopathic Hospital.
An Alumni Association of the medical school is formed. The Alumni Club, which boasted about 800 members before the stock market crashed, acquired a clubhouse in 1921. The yellow brick mansion at 147 North Street was previously owned by General Edmund Hayes, for whom Hayes Hall is named. Dues were $40 a year.
Former Buffalo Mayor Grover Cleveland is elected president of the United States.
One of the oldest pediatric hospitals in the country, Children’s Hospital of Buffalo (now the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital) is founded. The hospital greatly facilitated the development of the Department of Pediatrics in the UB medical school.
Charles Cary, MD, Class of 1875, worked untiringly to raise funds for a new medical school. It was largely through his efforts that a new school building opened in 1893 at 24 High Street.
The medical school moves into its new building on High Street.
Grover Cleveland begins his second (nonconsecutive) term as president of the United States.
Erie County Hospital is established in a building formerly occupied by the county hospital for the insane and an almshouse. Located on the site of the present-day South Campus at Main and Bailey, the facility was vacated due to a law that placed the care of the insane under state control.
Niagara University medical school merges with the University of Buffalo medical school.
President William McKinley, in Buffalo for the Pan American Exposition, is shot on September 6, 1901 by a self-declared anarchist, Leon F. Czolgosz.
Dr. Roswell Park—the surgeon of first choice—was in Niagara Falls performing an operation on a patient with a malignant lymphoma of the neck. Halfway through the operation a messenger burst into the operating room and said, “Dr. Park, you are wanted at once in Buffalo.” When Dr. Park answered that he could not leave the case even if it were for the president of the United States, the messenger answered: “Doctor, it is for the president of the United States.” In his place, Dr. Matthew D. Mann was chosen to perform the operation. The bullet had perforated both front and back walls of the stomach, taking off a tip of the pancreas, and lodging out of reach somewhere in the paraspinal musculature. The operation lasted 91 minutes and the patient was subsequently transferred to a private home, where he died September 14. Although the official announcement about the president’s death showed unanimity among his physicians, criticism of the handling of the president’s care continues to this day.
Mercy Hospital, founded by the Sisters of Mercy, opens in a house on Tifft Street in South Buffalo. It had 30 beds and cared mainly for the large Irish Catholic population of the city.
Of the 689 physicians practicing in Buffalo, at this time, 400 graduated from the UB Medical School.
In response to the critical need for a larger hospital to treat tuberculosis patients, Buffalo City Hospital is opened on Grider Street. In 1939, it was named the Edward J. Meyer Memorial Hospital in honor of the physician who led the hospital from its founding until his death in 1935. Meyer, Class of 1891, was responsible for the hospital’s close affiliation with the UB medical school. In 1946, the hospital passed from city to county control and was renamed Erie County Medical Center.
In 1918, the great influenza pandemic struck, killing 20 million worldwide, including 550,000 Americans. Buffalo weathered the pandemic better than most cities because of the leadership provided by UB medical school’s faculty and alumni, who advocated for strict public-health measures in the city. Within a month of the outbreak, it appeared that the measures had worked, as the city suffered only a 6 percent morbidity rate, compare to 10 percent nationwide.
The city’s acting health commissioner, Franklin C. Gram, MD, Class of 1891, formed a special advisory committee to deal with the pandemic. Hospitals were asked to dedicate half their beds to influenza cases, and Buffalo’s Central High School (today Hutchinson Central Technical High School) was converted into a temporary hospital. The greatest need, however, was for health-care workers. On October 16, 1918, the senior class of the medical school was pressed into service, and the next day the order was extended to include members of the junior and sophomore classes.
Though citizens complained, Gram imposed draconian measures that virtually shut down the city for weeks. Public assembly of more than ten people was prohibited. This included streetcars, theaters, movies, schools, saloons, and church services, even funerals.
UB’s Endowment Fund Campaign raises $5 million in ten days from 24,000 subscribers.
A second $5 million Endowment Fund Campaign is successful, with the theme: “Buffalo’s boys and girls are her richest treasure and her highest obligation!” At the close of the campaign—on the same day the stock market crashed—the goal had been exceeded. Some of the pledges from 33,000 individuals were never received due to financial hardship.
First Spring Clinical Day, sponsored by the Medical Alumni Association, is held.
The School of Nursing begins as a division of the medical school.
David K. Miller, MD, of medicine, becomes the first full-time professor in a clinical department.
The bequest of DeWitt H. Sherman, MD, for a medical research building further strengthened the research efforts at the medical school. Dr. Sherman, professor of pediatrics, died in 1940 and the funds became available upon the death of his wife in 1957. The Sherman Hall addition to Capen Hall on the South Campus was dedicated in 1958.
Shortly after the United States declared war in 1941, medical students were inducted into the armed services. By the following summer, the curriculum had been reorganized into a three-year program with classes continuing year-round. Specialized training units were formed within the school. Every morning the students lined up in uniform in front of the High Street building and marched to a nearby field for drill exercises. Many volunteer and full-time faculty also served in the armed forces. Those who stayed behind placed their energies on patient care and teaching while research suffered. In 1945, the American Medical Association’s accreditation team recommended that the medical school be placed on probation, prompting dramatic changes.
In 1946, the Elizabeth Blackwell Society, named for the first woman medical graduate in the United States, was formed at UB by the 23 women medical students at the university.
Seven out of every 18 physicians in Buffalo are UB medical school graduates. The UB Centennial Fund campaign publicizes this statistic to boost its fundraising.
The Veterans Administration Hospital is dedicated. It is built on Main and Bailey streets in anticipation of the UB medical school relocating to the South Campus.
The medical school moves from High Street to the UB South Campus at Main and Bailey.
The medical school receives the largest bequest in its history up to that time. Ralph Hochstetter, president of Cliff Petroleum Company, gave $8 million to support fellowships in medical research. Named in honor of Henry C. Buswell, professor of medicine a Niagara University, the endowment significantly strengthened basic research at the school.
Undergraduate Education Program established, when the school began offering a bachelor of science degree in medical technology. Today, the school offers a BS degree in eight areas of study.
The private University of Buffalo joins the State University of New York System.
School of Health Related Professions is established.
Buffalo Physician magazine, originally named The Buffalo Medical Review, is launched. The magazine’s name changed again in 2013, when it became UB Medicine.
Samuel Sanes, MD ’30, shown here teaching in his lab, was a much-loved professor of pathology and legal medicine for more than 30 years. In the1950s, he was coordinator of Modern Medicine, one of the first medical shows on television. He was dedicated to educating the public, and when he contracted cancer in 1973, he wrote a series of articles for the Buffalo Physician on what he learned being a patient.
The original German Deaconess Hospital was founded in 1896. When New York State mandated that a university family practice residency be instituted, the program developed at the hospital became the UB Department of Family Medicine in 1969.
After 10 years of planning and seven years of construction, Erie County Medical Center opens its new 12-story “air-conditioned” building replacing the E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital.
Buffalo General Hospital and Deaconess Hospital of Buffalo merge.
The medical school works with its affiliated hospitals to form the Graduate Medical Dental Education Consortium to govern residency and fellowship training programs in Buffalo. It offers postgraduate medical trainees a wide range of clinical experiences and training opportunities and serves as a national model for graduate medical education.
A 16-story medical tower is added to Buffalo General Hospital complex on High Street.
The school changes its name to the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
A 39,000-square foot research building is dedicated at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Hospital on Bailey Avenue.
PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences is started. (Originally known as the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences, the name was changed in 2011).
In 1995, the Biomedical Research Building opened on the South Campus.
The medical school opens a medical computing lab.
Buffalo General Hospital, Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, Millard Fillmore Gates, Millard Fillmore Suburban and DeGraff Memorial merge to form the CGF Health System, renamed Kaleida Health on January 20, 1999.
For the first time, students take Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination electronically.
UBMD Physicians’ Group is formed.
A new entity called the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus—formerly referred to as the “High Street medical corridor”—is formed by the major players in medical care, research, education and biotechnology in Buffalo.
Affiliation agreements that fundamentally change the working relationship between the medical school and Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center are announced.
UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences opens. It is temporarily located at 901 Washington Street while construction begins on a building to house it. The new building opens in 2006.
Approximately 12 miles of fiber-optic cable is installed by UB, enhancing high-speed data links between its three campuses and its affiliated research institutes, an essential step in the creation of a life-sciences campus for Western New York.
Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and its Structural Biology Research Center open on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Located on Ellicott and Virginia streets, the building is also the new home to UB’s Department of Structural Biology.
New York State Supreme Court announces an agreement between Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) and Kaleida Health, resolving a yearlong impasse on how to begin consolidation of ECMC and Kaleida services, paving the way for the creation of centers of medical excellence.
The largest gift to the medical school at the time is made by George M. Ellis Jr., MD ’45, who, upon his death, left the school close to $50 million. Ellis was a family physician who practiced out of his home in the rural Midwest for over 50 years, assisted by his wife, Gladys “Kelly” Ellis, RN, the nurse for the practice. Ellis wanted the gift to remain anonymous until both he and Kelly passed, which happened in 2018, at which time their names were made public.
“Not enough can be said about both the generosity and the timing of this remarkable gift,” said Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the medical school. “This was something that George Ellis planned for close to 70 years, and it came in2011, just after UB—with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo—had made the decision to build a new home downtown for the medical school. Just knowing we had this gift invested made all the difference in our having the confidence to plan and move forward.”
The UB Clinical and Translational Research Center opens on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
UB receives a $15 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. With the grant, UB joins an elite tier of research institutes.
Jeremy M. Jacobs, his wife, Margaret, and their family give $30 million to the UB medical school. Jacobs is chairman of Delaware North, a global hospitality and food service company, and a longtime chair of the UB Council. The Jacobs family’s giving to the university totaled more than $50 million, making it one of UB’s most generous benefactors. In recognition of Jeremy Jacobs’ service and generosity to the university, the school is renamed the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “This is a great and historic milestone for UB, as the first school-naming in our university’s long and distinguished history,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi. “It is truly fitting that the medical school—UB’s founding school—would have this great distinction.”
The new medical school building, located at 955 Main Street in downtown Buffalo, opens December 12. The $375 million, 628,000-square-foot building is located just steps from where the medical school was located from 1893 to 1953.
Class size is increased to 180, up from 144, in an effort to help address physician shortages in Western New York and nationwide.
Conventus building opens on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
First classes are held in the new medical school building on January 8, 2018.
The Medical Education and Educational Research Institute is established in the medical school.
UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Award is renewed by the National Institutes of Health for $21.7 million.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical school transitions to distance-learning in March. Fourth-year students participate in a virtual Match Day and commencement ceremony. Third- and fourth-year clinical rotations are altered to accommodate a two-and-a-half month pause in students’ access to clinical sites.
Sources for this timeline include Another Era, A Pictorial History of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1846-1996; and Buffalo Physician and UB Medicine magazines. All photos courtesy of UB Archives, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, unless otherwise indicated.
The UB medical school’s founding faculty were “as notable a faculty . . . as one could hope to find anywhere,” according to Harvey Cushing, renowned neurosurgeon at the time.
James Platt White, MD, the individual most responsible for the founding of the medical school, was a pioneer in American obstetrics and gynecology. He introduced the clinical teaching of obstetrics in the United States, advocated for the use of anesthesia in childbirth and was responsible for the development of many new surgical techniques and instruments, including forceps. In 1850, he showed a live birth to his medical students, the first time that demonstrative midwifery was used in the United States.
Austin Flint, MD, was a superb clinician whose many clinical contributions included the description of the cardiac murmur that bears his name. His treatise, titled Principles and Practice of Medicine, first published in 1866, was the book most likely to be found in the office of a physician at that time.
Frank Hastings Hamilton, MD, in 1847, was the first physician in Buffalo to use ether (for a patient with a dislocated shoulder). He wrote a famous book on fractures that went through eight editions and was translated into French and German. In 1854, he performed the first successful skin graft, to treat an ulcer on a patient’s leg.
Alden S. Sprague, MD, performed the first major operation under anesthesia (amputation at the thigh) in Buffalo, also in 1847.
Thomas E. Rochester, MD, who joined the UB medical school faculty in 1853, made significant contributions to the understanding of appendicitis.
Julius F. Miner, MD, joined the faculty in 1855 and quickly established himself as a bold and original surgeon. He was the first to successfully perform a thyroidectomy and also demonstrated the principle of enucleation in the removal of ovarian tumors, a method that was adopted universally.
Devillo W. Harrington, MD, Class of 1871. Toward the end of the Civil War, sick and Injured soldiers from New England regiments were transported to Buffalo General Hospital. One such soldier, Devillo W. Harrington, lay wounded on the battlefield for three days before being evacuated. When he arrived in Buffalo, his case was considered hopeless. The interns tried a new dressing of permanganate of potash, one of the first antiseptic surgical dressings used, and he recovered. Harrington graduated from the UB medical school in 1871 and later became the first professor of genitourinary and venereal diseases at UB. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of his graduation, he established an endowment. For 175 years, the Harrington Lectureship has brought outstanding physicians and scientists to Buffalo.
Lucian Howe, MD, a seminal figure in early American ophthalmology, was the school’s first professor of ophthalmology. He came to Buffalo prior to the Civil War and introduced the practice of modern ophthalmology to the region. In 1876, Howe established the Buffalo Eye and Ear Infirmary. Throughout his career he held leadership roles in the American Ophthalmological Society, the American Medical Association Section on Ophthalmology, and the Medical Society of the State of New York. He is renowned for having established medals rewarding original research and distinguished service at these three organizations. In 1928, a fourth Howe Medal was created posthumously by UB and the Buffalo Ophthalmic Society.
Roswell Park, MD, a surgeon of consummate skill and an eminent teacher, was recruited from Chicago to Buffalo in 1883. In 1898, the New York State Pathological Laboratory was established and housed in the UB medical school on High Street. Funded by a state appropriation, it was the first laboratory in the world to be devoted solely to the study of cancer, and Park became its first director.
In 1901, a separate building was constructed and the institute was renamed for Mrs. William Gratwick, who provided much of the funding for the building. In 1911, the laboratory became a state institute and its name changed to the New York State Institute for the Study of Malignant Disease. In 1946, it was again renamed in honor of its founder and first director—hence, today’s Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Francis E. Fronczak, MD, Class of 1897, was one of the foremost authorities on public health. In addition to his medical degree, he received a law degree from UB in 1900. He gained an international reputation aiding the people of Poland during World Wars I and II. From 1910 to 1945 he was associate professor of hygiene and preventive medicine. Fronczak Hall, on the North Campus, is named after him.
Grover William Wende, MD, Class of 1889, a much-loved Buffalo physician, was one of the leading dermatologists in the country. He noted many rare diseases, including a description of nodular tuberculosis of the skin. He was one of the most skillful dermatologic photographers in the country. Wende Hall, on the South Campus, is named after him.
Ernest Wende, MD, Class of 1878, Grover Wende’s older brother, was one of the most outstanding health officers in the country. He invented the modern nipple for baby bottles. Easier to clean than the nipple-and-tube contraption of earlier years, it helped prevent milk-borne infections in infants.
At a time when many universities were operated by churches and limited their admissions accordingly, UB exhibited a surprising openness in its admission policy. Women and blacks were admitted at relatively early dates.
The university's welcoming attitude was formalized in its 1920 fundraising slogan, "For all Buffalo Boys and Girls—regardless of race, creed or class."
The Buffalo Medical Journal, under the editorship of UB medical school professor Austin Flint, MD, is the first medical journal in the United States to publish an article written by a woman physician. The author is Elizabeth Blackwell, MD, who, that year, was the first woman to graduate from medical school in the country.
Mary Blair Moody, MD, age 40, and the mother of six, is the first woman to graduate from the UB medical school. Though some professors welcomed her, others hoped she would be the last. A few rough fellows greeted Moody with catcalls or smoked excessively near her at recess, but most were willing to treat her fairly. Dr. Moody was an active physician and scientist, particularly concerned with preventive medicine. She was the first woman member of the Medical Society of Erie County, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a contributor to the Buffalo Medical Journal. She was a founder of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union in Buffalo in 1885, and the first supervisor of its program in Hygiene and Physical Education.
Joseph Robert Love, MD, is the first black graduate of the UB medical school. He played an important role in stimulating the political activity of the black population of Jamaica and in inspiring the racial consciousness of Marcus Garvey, the charismatic leader who organized the first important U.S. black nationalist movement. Born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, he came to the United States as an adult, working with the Episcopal Church. He was ordained in Buffalo and began his medical training at UB in preparation for missionary work in Haiti. At the alumni banquet held the year that he graduated, the last regular toast was to “Our Colored Fellow-Citizens.” Dr. Love, in his eloquent response, predicted that soon blacks would enjoy equality.
M. Louise Hurrell, MD, Class of 1902, spent 1918-19 as director of the American Women’s Hospital, Unit One, in Luzancy, France. There she and her all-female staff administered care to 20,000 patients at the cost of less than one dollar per patient. She practiced most of her life in Rochester, NY.
Husband-and-wife team, Carl F. Cori, MD, adjunct assistant professor of physiology at UB from 1930-1931, and Gerty Cori, MD, receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. The couple came to Buffalo from Germany in 1922 to work on carbohydrate metabolism at the New York State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases, today Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Nobel Laureate Sir John C. Eccles, MD, DPhil, was recruited to the Department of Physiology in 1968 by Hermann Rahn, PhD, chair of the department. An Australian neurophysiologist and philosopher, Eccles won the Nobel Prize in Physiology/ Medicine in 1963 for his work on the synapse, sharing the prize with Andrew Huxley and Alan Lloyd Hodgkin. At UB, Eccles served as professor of physiology and medicine and directed a neurobiology research unit until he retired in 1975, at which time he was named SUNY Distinguished Professor.
Herbert Hauptman, PhD, research professor of biophysics at UB, wins the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. A renowned mathematician, he later becomes president of Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, formerly the Medical Foundation of Buffalo. Hauptman and his collaborator, Dr. Jerome Karle, devised what came to be the standard method to determine the three-dimensional structures of complex molecules, which enabled researchers to identify and manipulate molecules and to develop new drugs.
This timeline is dedicated to Linda A. Lohr, curator of the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection at the UB Health Sciences Library for 23 years, who died on April 24, 2020 after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. She was 71. Linda was known for her collegial spirit, kindness, generosity and dedication, and she is greatly missed.
Prior to serving as curator, Linda was the assistant to the director of the Health Sciences Library from 1979 to 1997. She was appointed curator after the retirement of her mentor, Ms. Lilli Sentz.
A native of Lackawanna, N.Y., Linda majored in French and Italian at SUNY Albany, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1970 and a master’s degree in languages and education in 1972. She received her New York State teaching certificate in French, and also had knowledge of Russian, Spanish and Latin. She attended the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, completing coursework in special collection librarianship.
“The collection really was her pride and joy,” her nephew John Pace says.
A co-workers recalls: “When you came to Linda with a question, she immediately knew what resources in the collection held the answer without having to consult the catalog. It was always a joy to see her give a tour . . . she brought the collection to life with her excitement.”
A devoted mentor, Linda taught and guided a generation of UB graduate students in library sciences and history. As part of this effort, she oversaw the indexing of the Buffalo Medical Journal, published from 1845-1919. She authored or co-authored 15 papers in the history of medicine and special collection librarianship, many of these written on the history of neurology with collaborator Edward Fine, MD. She also helped create a website with access to contemporary articles on the McKinley assassination.
Through a bequest gift, Linda created the Linda Lohr Endowed Fund for the History of Medicine to ensure that her vocation and dedication to the care of this collection carries forward beyond her lifetime.