The youngest of the nation's leading medical institutions, Duke Medicine has grown in just 75 years from a regional hospital, medical school, and nursing school into one of the country's leading clinical and biomedical research enterprises. Today, Duke’s health system stretches across North Carolina and into neighboring states, and it is a leader in numerous initiatives with global impact.
Read the story of medicine at Duke for more details about how we've gotten where we are.
Below are selected highlights from Duke medical history.
1924 James B. Duke establishes The Duke Endowment and directs that part of his $40-million gift be used to transform Durham's Trinity College into Duke University.
1925 James B. Duke makes an additional bequest to establish the Duke School of Medicine, Duke School of Nursing, and Duke Hospital, with the goal of improving health care in the Carolinas and nationwide.
1927 Construction begins on the Medical School and Duke Hospital.
1927 Wilburt Cornell Davison is elected dean of the Duke University School of Medicine and Hospital on January 21.
1929 Three thousand applicants apply to the new medical school. Seventy first- and third-year students are selected, including four women.
1930 Classes begin in hospital administration, dietetics, and medical technology on August 15.
1930 Duke Hospital opens to patients on July 21, attracting 25,000 visitors.
1930 Eighteen third-year and 30 first-year medical students began classes on October 2.
1931 Alpha Omega Alpha installs the Alpha Chapter at Duke University School of Medicine on April 29. Alpha Omega Alpha was the first fraternal organization at the school.
1931 Duke Medical School and Hospital are officially dedicated on April 20.
1931 The Private Diagnostic Clinic is organized on September 15.
1931 The Duke School of Nursing's first class of 24 undergraduate students begin classes January 2.
1932 Baker House, named for Bessie Baker, first dean of Nursing at Duke Hospital, opens.
1933 The Duke Hospital Women's Auxiliary is established to support clinical activities, outreach, and hospitality efforts of Duke Hospital.
1934 The first Duke Medical Postgraduate Symposium is offered to physicians in the Southeast.
1935 The Association of American Medical Colleges ranks Duke among the top 25 percent of medical schools in the country -- less than five years after it opened.
1936 J. Deryl Hart, a Duke surgeon, introduces ultraviolet lamps into operating rooms to kill airborne germs that cause post-operative Staph infections -- dramatically reducing the number of infections and related deaths.
1937 Duke establishes the nation's first brain tumor program, launching what will become one of the world's foremost cancer programs.
1937 Joseph Beard develops a vaccine against equine encephalomyelitis.
1940 Duke's Medical Alumni Association is organized.
1940 Duke Hospital adds its first wing.
1940 For his studies of the metabolism of the tubercle bacillus, which eventually led to effective medications, Duke pharmacologist Frederick Bernheim is nominated for the Nobel Prize.
1940s-1950s Walter Kempner's research, using a rice-based diet and daily laboratory testing, demonstrates that degenerative processes attacking the kidney, heart, brain, and retina can be arrested by dietary changes. These dramatic findings draw patients to Duke from across the nation.
1940 The U.S. Army authorizes the 65th General Hospital as an affiliated unit of the Duke University School of Medicine on October 17.
1944 Directorship of Highland Hospital is assumed by Duke University in September. Duke's Department of Neuropsychiatry, under the direction of Richard S. Lyman, provided mental health services to patients in western North Carolina.
1947 Bell Research Building is opened as the first freestanding building of the medical center.
1950 Duke pediatrician Jay Arena leads the push for drug companies to develop the child-proof safety cap for medicine bottles.
1950 The North Carolina Cerebral Palsy Hospital (later named Lenox Baker Hospital) is dedicated with 40 beds.
1951 Hanes House, a dormitory for nursing students, opens.
1954 The Duke Poison Control Center is organized, becoming the second such center in the United States.
1955 Psychiatrist Ewald W. Busse establishes the Duke University Center for Aging, the first research center of its kind in the nation. Now the oldest continuously running aging center in the United States, the Duke Center for Aging has pioneered long-term studies of health problems among the elderly.
1956 Duke surgeons become first to use systemic hypothermia during cardiac surgery. This technique of cooling patients to less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit to minimize tissue damage during lengthy surgical procedures is now standard practice worldwide.
1957 The original Medical School and Hospital are renamed "Duke University Medical Center."
1958 Thelma Ingles, professor and chair of the Department of Medical-Surgical Nursing, develops the clinical nursing specialist program, the first master's program of its kind in the United States. This program pioneered the achievement of advanced clinical knowledge in the delivery and teaching of nursing care.
1960 Barnes Woodhall is appointed dean of the Medical Center on July 1.
1962 Gerontology Building and the Diagnostic and Treatment Center opens (later renamed the Busse Building).
1963 Clinical Research Building opens (later renamed the Stead Building).
1963 Duke University School of Medicine admits its first African American student.
1963 The hyperbaric chamber opens.
1964 William G. Anlyan becomes dean of Duke University School of Medicine and Medical Center on July 1.
1965 Duke establishes the nation's first Physician Assistant Program.
1966 Duke becomes the first medical center in the world to offer a radio consultative program to isolated doctors in other countries. The radio program, Med-Aid (shortened for Medical Assistance for Isolated Doctors), met critical needs of physicians in developing countries
1966 A new hospital entrance, the Woodhall Building, opens.
1966 The Duke Medical Scientist Training Program, a joint degree program leading to both the MD and the PhD degrees, is founded. It is one of the first three in the nation.
1966 The new medical school curriculum gives students greater freedom to shape their course of study.
1968 Scientist Irwin Fridovich and graduate student Joe McCord discover the enzyme which protects all living things against the toxicity of oxygen.
1968 The Nanaline Duke Research Building opens.
1969 In its hyperbaric chamber, Duke conducts the first recorded studies of humans' ability to function and work at pressures equal to a 1,000-foot deep-sea dive.
1971 The Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center becomes one of the nation’s first cancer centers to be established in December 1971 with the passage of the National Cancer Act. It is designated a "comprehensive" cancer center by the National Cancer Institute in 1973.
1973 The Eye Center opens and is dedicated on November 8.
1973 The Sands Research Building opens.
1975 The Jones Research Building opens.
1975 The Seeley G. Mudd Building housing the Medical Center Library and Searle Center conference rooms opens.
1978 The Morris Cancer Research Building opens.
1980 The new $94.5-million, 616-bed Duke Hospital opens north of the original hospital, bringing the total number of patient beds to more than 1,000.
1985 Duke becomes one of two hospitals to conduct the first human clinical trials of AZT, the first drug to offer a substantial improvement in quality of life for AIDS patients.
1989 Ralph Snyderman is appointed chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine on January 1.
1990s Duke geneticists invent a three-minute test to screen newborns for over 30 metabolic diseases at once. Though devastating if undetected, the diseases can be controlled once identified. The test is now used throughout the country.
1990 The Bryan Research Building opens.
1992 Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center develops the nation's first outpatient bone-marrow transplantation program.
1992 Responding to the growing emphasis in the United States on preventive medicine, Duke opens the Center for Living Campus on Morreene Road.
1992 The School of Nursing expands its Advanced Practice Nursing programs, offering gerontology in 1992, followed by pediatrics in 1994, neonatal nurse practitioner in 1997, and acute care pediatrics in 1998.
1992 Duke performs its first lung transplant and its first heart/lung transplant.
1993 Duke researchers identify apolipoprotein E (apoE) as the major susceptibility gene for Alzheimer disease. This is just one of many genetic risk factors for disease identified at Duke.
1993 Duke enrolls the final patient in GUSTO-I, the largest clinical trial conducted in the United States. The infrastructure created for the GUSTO-I trial formed the foundation for the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), the nation's foremost clinical trials center based in an academic setting. DCRI was established as an independent entity within Duke University Medical Center in 1996.
1994 The Medical Center embarks on the busiest period of new construction in decades, resulting in the Levine Science Research Center, Medical Sciences Research Building, a complete renovation of Duke Clinic, additions to the Morris Building for cancer care and research, a new Children's Health Center, a new ambulatory care building, and new parking garages.
1995 Duke scientists help discover the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes responsible for many inherited forms of breast and ovarian cancers.
1998 The National Institutes of Health partner with Duke to offer a joint master of health sciences degree in clinical research. Using distance learning and televideo equipment, NIH fellows can earn a degree at Duke. This is the first graduate-level degree partnership for NIH.
1998 Duke University Health System -- an integrated academic health care system serving a broad area of central North Carolina -- is officially created as Duke establishes partnerships with Durham Regional Hospital, Raleigh Community Hospital, and other regional health care providers. DUHS today includes three hospitals, ambulatory care and surgery clinics, primary care medical practice clinics, home health services, hospice services, physician practice affiliations, managed care providers, and other related facilities and services.
1999 Duke separates the role of the dean of the School of Medicine and the chancellor for health affairs. Edward Holmes is appointed as dean of the School of Medicine. He is succeeded in 2001 by R. Sanders Williams.
1999 Duke anesthesiologist Laura Niklason creates a novel "bioreactor" system and uses it to grow blood vessels that look and act like the real thing. Though there are hurdles to overcome before the vessels can be used in bypass surgeries, the development is a significant advance in the field of tissue engineering.
2000 The $200-million Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy is founded. The Institute represents Duke University's comprehensive response to the broad challenges of the Genomic Revolution.
2000 The McGovern-Davison Children’s Health Center opens, bringing all of Duke’s pediatric specialties under one roof. The $32.5-million facility is completely paid for through philanthropy.
2001 The Duke Center for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging opens September 1. Among the first dedicated cardiovascular MRI centers in the country, it has established one of the nation's first cardiac MRI fellowship training programs.
2001 Duke neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues report that they have developed a system that allows monkeys to control robot arms via brain signals (detected through implanted electrodes). The achievement represents an important step toward technology that could enable paralyzed people to control "neuroprosthetic" limbs.
2002 A $20-million grant is awarded to a consortium of four research universities including Duke to help scientists develop the powerful computing systems and analysis to trace the origins of neurological disease from alterations in the basic structural information of the human genome to the diseases they produce.
2002 To address a growing shortage of nurses, the Duke University School of Nursing establishes a practice-intensive accelerated bachelor’s degree program in nursing. It is the first undergraduate nursing degree offered at Duke since 1984.
2003 A $45-million federal grant establishes the Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense (SERCEB), a consortium of investigators from six regional universities who work to develop vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic tests against emerging infections such as SARS, and for defense against organisms that might be used in bioterrorist attacks. SERCEB is led by and centered at Duke.
2003 Duke University Medical Center and the National University of Singapore partner to establish that country's first graduate medical school. The new school will be based on Duke's medical school curriculum and the U.S. model where students enter medical school after earning their baccalaureate degree.
2004 Raleigh Community Hospital changes its name to Duke Health Raleigh Hospital. Along with announcing the new name, Duke Health Raleigh Hospital introduces Wake County residents to newly expanded services including a cardiovascular center and cancer center.
2004 Victor J. Dzau becomes chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System on July 1.
2004 Catherine Lynch Gilliss becomes dean of the Duke University School of Nursing on October 1.
2005 Researchers at Duke and Vanderbilt universities discover the first major gene known to determine an individual's risk for developing age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of visual impairment and legal blindness in the elderly. Also in 2005, the Albert Eye Research Institute opens.
2005 Duke is tapped by the National Institutes of Health to lead the $300-million Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), a consortium of universities and academic medical centers dedicated to solving major problems in HIV vaccine development and design.
2006 The FDA approves a lifesaving treatment for Pompe disease, a previously fatal genetic disorder, that was developed at Duke.
2006 Duke launches the university-wide Global Health Institute to promote education, research, and service in health care to underserved populations locally, regionally, and around the world.
2006 The Duke University School of Nursing admits the first students into its new doctoral degree program. The school also opens a new facility that unites all nursing education and research programs on one campus.
2006 After a three-year application and evaluation process, Duke University Hospital is named a Magnet Hospital by the American Nurses Association, a distinction held by less than 4 percent of U.S. hospitals. Durham Regional achieves Magnet status in 2008; Duke Raleigh follows in 2009.
2007 The estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat announces a gift of S$80 million ($53 million) to support biomedical research initiatives at the Duke-National Graduate Medical School Singapore. The gift is matched dollar for dollar by the Singaporean government.
2007 Duke leaders announce the largest gift in the School of Medicine's history: $35 million from David H. Murdock to support a massive biomedical research project at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.
2007 Nancy C. Andrews becomes dean of the Duke University School of Medicine on October 1. She is the first woman to be appointed dean of Duke's medical school and the only woman to lead one of the nation's top 10 medical schools.
2007 Under a new collaboration with the FDA, Duke hosts a public-private partnership aimed at modernizing the way clinical trials are conducted. Represented groups include government, industry, patient advocacy groups, professional societies, and academia.
2007 Duke scientists create the first map of imprinted genes throughout the human genome, revealing four times as many imprinted genes as had previously been identified.
2008 In a first-of-its-kind experiment, researchers from Duke and the Japan Science and Technology Agency use the brain activity of a monkey to control the real-time walking patterns of a robot halfway around the world.
2008 The Duke Endowment sets a new record for the largest single gift to the medical center, with $50 million to help build a medical education facility and develop a state-of-the-art pediatric inpatient facility.
Duke Medicine History
Learn more about our history on the Duke medical archives Web site.