The education of physicians at Washington University began in 1891, when an ordinance establishing a Medical Department of Washington University brought the independent St. Louis Medical College under the university’s auspices. In 1899, Missouri Medical College, another independent college in the city, also joined Washington University.

In 1909, Abraham Flexner began a survey of medical schools for the Carnegie Foundation. The survey created a national sensation. Some schools collapsed, others pooled their resources, while still others reorganized. Washington University was admonished to either reorganize its medical department or close. Robert S. Brookings, president of the university’s Board of Directors, accepted the challenge to bring the school to the forefront of American medical institutions. In the spring of 1912, having secured sufficient capital, construction was begun on the medical school and hospital buildings that today form the nucleus of the Washington University Medical Center.

The Department of Pediatrics has received renewal through 2020 of its designation as a Child Health Research Center of Excellence by the National Institutes of Health. This Center, supported by a $5 million grant, is using models it developed to study pathology of diseases that affect children, focusing on human developmental biology. Such study will give insight into the pathology of the diseases as well as potential treatments.

In 2006, the Children’s Discovery Institute was established as a partnership between Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital involving faculty, students and professional staff throughout the university’s academic and medical community. The Children’s Discovery Institute supports broad, interdisciplinary research initiatives within four specific areas: childhood cancer, musculoskeletal diseases, pulmonary disease and congenital heart disease.

A few additional examples of leadership in clinical research and practice include the medical and surgical treatment of intractable seizures and spastic diplegia, which have made the hospital a leading center for the care of children with neurological disorders. The physiologic basis for apnea in premature infants was described by Washington University faculty. Major contributions to research also have been made in the areas of sudden infant death, immunodeficiency disease, vaccine development and juvenile hypertension.

History of the School of Medicine

Learn more about the history of our School of Medicine.

Did You Know?

St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine have a history of groundbreaking medical discoveries through research:

  • Between 1915-1929, Dr. Vilray Blair, known as the father of plastic surgery in America and the first division chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Washington University School of Medicine – perfected several important methods for correction of cleft palate and cleft lip.
  • In 1922, the first insulin treatment for a child with diabetes in the United States took place. The insulin was prepared in the Washington University School of Medicine biochemistry lab of Philip Shaffer.
  • In 1927, James Barrett Brown, MD, performed the first homograft on a child, resulting in the development of modern care for burns for children. Brown educated many leaders in the field of plastic surgery and earned numerous honors for his accomplishments.
  • In 1929, Alexis P. Hartman, MD developed the first practical treatment, lactated Ringer’s solution, for infants suffering from severe diarrhea and dehydration.
  • In 1974, the first pediatric dialysis unit in the Midwest was established at the hospital.
  • In 1990, the first freestanding pediatric lung transplant program in the United States was established at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
  • In 2010, the Washington University School of Medicine department of pediatrics marked its 100th anniversary. Graduates of the program have included a Nobel Prize winner and one of the founders of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization.