College of Medicine Chicago CampusBrief History of the College of Medicine

In the late 1800s, disease in Chicago was rampant, as was common in the area at that time. One in six children died of diphtheria, cholera or dysentery, and the role of bacteria in disease transmission was still a new discovery. Although six medical schools were already in existence, five physician-educators: Charles Warrington Earle, Abraham Reeves Jackson, Daniel Atkinson King Steele, Samuel McWilliams and Leonard St. John—decided to open their own proprietary medical school. The gentlemen pooled together $5,541.78, purchased a piece of land and secured a certificate of incorporation. The new school, located on Harrison and Honore streets, was named the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago (commonly referred to as P&S). Its doors opened on Sept. 26, 1882, with a class of 100 students and a faculty of 27 physicians.

At the West Side Free Dispensary, located on the first floor of the medical school, students in small groups could observe pathological cases and their treatment. Patients were classified according to the affected area or system of the body: heart, lungs, eyes, ears, skin or nervous system. The dispensary also furnished material for college clinics in medicine, surgery, gynecology, obstetrics, ophthalmology, neurology and pediatrics. In its first three years, the dispensary registered 20,353 patients and dispensed 17,347 prescriptions.

Other charitable organizations created in Chicago around the same time included the new Hull-House, a social services institution opened by Jane Addams in 1889. The original house remains as part of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, along with the restored settlement dining hall.

In 1913, after years of negotiations, the P&S faculty and alumni donated stock to the University of  Illinois Board of Trustees to establish the University of Illinois College of Medicine. In 1970, the Illinois legislature voted to expand the college to three additional sites: Peoria, Rockford and Urbana. Their purpose was to provide access to care for all citizens in the state and increase opportunities for Illinois residents to attend medical school.


The College of Medicine maintains an internationally renowned faculty of approximately 4,000 across the four sites. Various types of professional service are rendered by its physicians, such as primary care, specialty practice, research, teaching, preventative medicine and administration. Medical students have the opportunity to become familiar with several professional roles and to choose the role best-suited for their individual goals and abilities.

The surrounding health science center, of which the University of Illinois College of Medicine is a part, also comprises the colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Applied Health Sciences, and the School of Public Health.