Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

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Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Established 1765
Type Private
Parent institution
University of Pennsylvania
Dean Dr. J. Larry Jameson
Academic staff
1,700 full time
Students 725 (MD students)
570 (PhD students)
160 (MD/PhD students)
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Coordinates: 39°56′51″N 75°11′32″W / 39.947454°N 75.192356°W / 39.947454; -75.192356
Campus Urban

The Perelman School of Medicine, commonly known as Penn Med, is the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania. It is located in the University City section of Philadelphia. Founded in 1765, Penn Med is the oldest medical school in the United States.[1] Today, the Perelman School of Medicine is a major center of biomedical research and education, and it is widely regarded as one of the country's top medical schools. Penn Med consistently ranks among the highest recipients of NIH research awards,[2] and it currently holds the #4 spot on U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools: Research" list.[3]


Medical Hall and College Hall, 1842
Medical Hall and College Hall of the University of Pennsylvania in 1842

The school's young co-founder, John Morgan, earned an A.B. from the College of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania) and a MD from the University of Edinburgh Medical School.[4] In 1765, after spending five years training in Edinburgh and touring Europe, Dr. Morgan and his friend Dr. William Shippen Jr. returned to Philadelphia and persuaded the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania to found the first medical school in America. Only months before the medical school was created, Morgan delivered an address to the Trustees and the citizens of Philadelphia, "Upon the Institution of Medical Schools in America" during which he expressed his desire for the new medical school to become a model institution:[5]

Perhaps this medical institution, the first of its kind in America, though small in its beginning, may receive a constant increase of strength, and annually exert new vigor. It may collect a number of young persons of more ordinary abilities, and so improve their knowledge as to spread its reputation to different parts. By sending these abroad duly qualified, or by exciting an emulation amongst men of parts and literature, it may give birth to other useful institutions of a similar nature, or occasional rise, by its example to numerous societies of different kinds, calculated to spread the light of knowledge through the whole American continent, wherever inhabited.[6]

That autumn, students enrolled for "anatomical lectures" and a course on "the theory and practice of physick." Modeling the School after the University of Edinburgh Medical School, the need for supplemental medical lectures with bedside teaching was emphasized, which was satisfied by practitioners at the Pennsylvania Hospital.[7]

First year medical students dissecting
First-year medical students in the Dissecting Room of the Laboratory Building, 1890

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.[8]


On May 10, 2011 university president Amy Gutmann announced that the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine will be officially renamed the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in honor of a $225 million contribution made to the medical school by Raymond G. Perelman, 93, a Philadelphia based philanthropist and father of billionaire Ronald Perelman. This sets the record as the largest donation given in U.S. history to rename a medical school. Together with a $25 million contribution made in 2005 to create the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, the Perelman family contribution to the medical school to date is approximately $250 million.[9][10] Note that the short version of the name, Perelman School of Medicine, is also an official name of the school.[11]


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).[12] Today, the medical school is affiliated with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, Chester County Hospital, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia with additional teaching at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.[13][14][15]

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


John Morgan Building
John Morgan Hall, where the majority of lectures used to be held
Smilow Center for Translational Research
Smilow Center for Translational Research
Perelman School of Medicine and CHOP Quad
Medical and research facilities of the Perelman School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Listed below are the current buildings of the Perelman School of Medicine, not including those of any of the affiliated hospitals.[16][17][18]

Building Name Year Built Architect(s) Area (sq. ft.)
Anatomy Chemistry Building 1928 Stewardson & Page 128114
Biomedical Research Building 2/3 1999 Perkins & Will, Francis Cauffman, Foley Hoffman 385000
Blockley Hall 1964 Supowitz & Demchick 166425
Claire M. Fagin Hall (Nursing) 1972 Fisher Associates 165600
Clinical Research Building 1989 Payette Associates, Venturi, Ranch, and Scott Brown 204211
Cyclotron 1987 Francis, Cauffman, Wilkinson, Pepper 8122
Edward J. Stemmler Hall
formerly the Medical Education Building, until 1990 [19]
1978 Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, and Cunningham 251344
John Morgan Building
formerly the Medical Laboratories, until 1987 [16]
1904 Cope & Stewardson 211140
Henry A. Jordan Medical Education Center (JMEC)[20] 2015 Rafael Viñoly Architects PC 371000
Richards Medical Research Laboratories 1962 Louis Kahn 107103
Robert Wood Johnson Pavilion 1969 Alexander Ewing, Erdman & Eubank 161228
Stellar-Chance Laboratories
formerly the Biomedical Research Laboratories, until 1995 [21]
1994 Bower Lewis Thrower 213620
Smilow Center for Translational Research (formerly Translational Research Center) 2010 Rafael Viñoly Architects PC 500000
Translational Research Laboratory (and addition) 1948
Tsoi/Kobus & Associates 129418

Medical advancements[edit]

Clinical Research Building (CRB)

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 and early 1960s, Dr. Jonathon E. Rhoads of the Department of Surgery (which he would later go on to head for many years), mentored Dr. Stanley Dudrick who pioneered the successful use of total parenteral nutrition (TPN) for patients unable to tolerate nutrition through their GI tract.[22]

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.[23]

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.

In 2006, Drs. Kaplan and Shore of the Department of Orthopedics discovered the causative mutation in fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, an extremely rare disease of bone.[24]

Medical curriculum[edit]

Perelman School of Medicine Seal.gif

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." 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.[25]

The Doctor of Medicine (MD) curriculum is broken into six modules, each of which has its own courses:[26]

  1. Core Principles
  2. Integrative Systems and Disease
  3. Technology and Practice of Medicine
  4. Required Clinical Clerkships
  5. Electives, Selectives, and Scholarly Pursuit
  6. Professionalism and Humanism

The MD program is a four-year program that can be described in relation to traditional semesters, with the modules for that semester and the courses taken for each. The first three semesters use about half the time for lectures and the other half for small group learning and problem-based learning.[27]

  • Semester 1
  • Semesters 2, 3
  • Semesters 4, 5
    • Module 4: required clinical clerkships
    • Module 6: doctoring, communication, and patient safety
  • Semesters 6, 7, 8
    • Module 5: electives, selectives, "frontiers in medicine," (during which updates to medical science are discussed) and the required scholarly pursuit
    • Module 6: communication, and bioethics

In addition to the MD curriculum, the school offers certificate programs in global health, women's health, community health, clinical neuroscience, and aging. There is also a combined degree option with the MD degree in combination with Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Juris Doctor (JD), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Bioethics (MBE), Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology (MSCE), Master of Science in Translational Research (MTR), Master of Public Health (MPH), and Master of Science in Health Policy Research (MSHP).[28] There also exists the option for an extra year to pursue various avenues, including research or finishing the requirements for a second degree.[29]

Biomedical Graduate Studies[edit]

Biomedical Research Building (BRB)

Biomedical Graduate Studies, contained within the Perelman School of Medicine, was established in 1985 and serves as the academic home within the University of Pennsylvania for roughly 700 students pursuing a PhD in the basic biomedical sciences. BGS consists of more than 600 faculty members across seven Penn schools and several associated institutes including Wistar Institute, Fox Chase Cancer Center, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.[30] There are seven graduate programs, labeled by the school as "graduate groups," that lead to a Ph.D. in basic biomedical sciences.[31]

All students receive a stipend in addition to a full fellowship and tend to receive the degree within a median time frame of 5.4 years.[32] There is also the option for students to pursue an additional certificate in medicine, public health, and environmental health sciences.[33] Each graduate group has its own admission policy and training mission, and hence curriculum greatly varies.[30]


"Penn Medicine" is the governing board that administers and coordinates the Perelman School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS). The board reports directly to the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. It was created by Penn's former president, Judith Rodin, in response to a $300 Million financial crisis at the Health System.[34]


Historical roster listing the Professors and Clinical Professors of the Department of Medicine

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, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Microbiology, Neuroscience, Pharmacology, and Physiology. The school also has departments in the following clinical practices: Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Family Practice and Community Medicine, Medicine, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ophthalmology (See Scheie Eye Institute), Orthopaedic Surgery, Otorhinolaryngology, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Pediatrics (See Children's Hospital of Philadelphia), Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychiatry, Radiation Oncology, Radiology, and Surgery.[35]

Centers and institutes[edit]

The Perelman School of Medicine, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania Health System, has contained within it many centers and institutes dealing with clinical medicine, clinical research, basic science research, and translational research.[36]

Notable alumni[edit]

John Morgan Hall as seen in a postcard sent in 1908

18th Century[edit]

19th Century[edit]

20th Century[edit]

21st Century[edit]

  • Rajiv Shah, Class of 2001: director of USAID, formerly at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; also alumnus of the Wharton School


Hamilton Walk with the John Morgan Building on the right

United States Medical School Ranking Systems[edit]

Organization Rank Year
U.S. News, Research[3] 2 2012
National Institutes of Health,[2] by funding 3 2012
U.S. News, Primary Care[3] 11 2012

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "University of Pennsylvania". World Digital Library. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "NIH Awards by Location & Organization, Medical Schools Only". National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "University of Pennsylvania (Perelman) | Best Medical School". U.S. News. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Carson, Joseph (1869). A History of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lindsay and Blakiston. p. 44. LCCN 08007557. OCLC 2340581. 
  5. ^ Thorpe, Francis M. (July 1985). "The University of Pennsylvania" (Magazine). Harper's Magazine. p. 289. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Morgan, John (1765). A Discourse upon the Institution of Medical Schools in America. Philadelphia: William Bradford. LCCN 07027987. OCLC 62815747. 
  7. ^ Nitzsche, George Erazmus (1918). University of Pennsylvania: its history, traditions, buildings and memorials (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: International Printing Company. p. 13. 
  8. ^ Frances Gurney Smith and John B. Biddle, ed. (1853). The Medical examiner, and record of medical science, Volume 9. Philadelphia, PA: Lindsay & Blakiston. pp. 532–5. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  9. ^ New York Times: Perelmans Rename Penn Med
  10. ^ Raymond and Ruth Perelman Donate $225 Million to the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine
  11. ^ "Perelman School Renaming Information". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "School of Medicine, A Brief History". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  13. ^ "University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)". Best Medical Schools. U.S. News & World Report. 2015. Retrieved March 18, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Medical Student Elective Rotations". Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Retrieved March 18, 2015. 
  15. ^ "About the Philadelphia VA Medical Center". U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs. Retrieved March 18, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Cooper, David Y., III; Marshall A. Ledger (1990). Innovation and Tradition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 323–4. ISBN 978-0-8122-8242-9. 
  17. ^ "Timeline of University History". University History. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "Campus Map". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  19. ^ Spiegel, Peter. "Planned campus center gets Revlon name". The Daily Pennsylvanian. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  20. ^ "Henry A. Jordan Medical Education Center — Perelman School of Medicine". A Vision for the Future. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved February 5, 2015. 
  21. ^ Sies, Helmut. "In memoriam Prof. Dr. Britton Chance". Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "Death of Dr. Jonathan Rhoads, A Preeminent Penn Paragon". University of Pennsylvania Almanac. 8 January 2002. Retrieved November 25, 2011. 
  23. ^ "C. William Schwab, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.R.C.S. Traumatology, Surgical Critical Care and Emergency Surgery". Penn Medicine. 
  24. ^ Shore, EM (May 2006). "A recurrent mutation in the BMP type I receptor ACVR1 causes inherited and sporadic fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva.". Nature Genetics 38 (5): 525–7. doi:10.1038/ng1783. PMID 16642017. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "The Curriculum Overview and Outcomes". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  27. ^ "Percentage Lecture vs. Small Groups". University of Pennsylvania. 
  28. ^ "Combined Degree and Physician Scholars Program". Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  29. ^ "Curriculum Innovations". University of Pennsylvania. 
  30. ^ a b "About". Biomedical Graduate Studies. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  31. ^ "BGS Overview". Biomedical Graduate Studies. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  32. ^ "A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States". The National Academies Press. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  33. ^ "Certificate". Biomedical Graduate Studies. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  34. ^ Penn Gazette: The Rodin Years
  35. ^ "Departments". Perelman School of Medicine. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  36. ^ "Centers and Institutes". Perelman School of Medicine. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  37. ^ General alumni catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania. General Alumni Society, 1917, accessed December 5, 2010.
  38. ^ Hepp, Christopher. "Penn's Isaac Starr, 94, Pioneer In Cardiology". The Inquirer. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 

External links[edit]

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