The idea came to me when writing a short article about the opening of Boone County Hospital (now Boone Hospital Center) almost exactly 90 years ago, on a nippy Saturday, December 10, 1921.
While things took flight pretty smoothly at the top of East Broadway, the University of Missouri had made the first medical move, a rocky one, almost 50 years earlier. And if it hadn’t been for one man, a guy who later became responsible for many successes at Mizzou, much of which affected Columbia and Boone County—continuing with a medical school at the University could have been a bust.
The Missouri School of Medicine was founded in 1872, during the University’s 33rd year, as a two-year school—housed in a wooden building at the northwest corner of the Red Campus. Although it was the first publicly supported med school west of the Mississippi, things didn’t go so well those first years. But that’s about when Mizzou’s historical “knight in shining armor” appeared, in the form of a new University president.
His name was Richard Jesse.
Two years after Jesse took the lead, two new brick buildings, one christened McAlester Hall, in 1902, were built. Filled with better equipment and a bunch of excellent, recently recruited faculty, more students became pre-med, completing their two years before moving on to finish up at universities with four-year medical schools. The second building became Parker Hospital, opening next door to McAlester on South Sixth Street—made possible in part by a large grant from those dynamic beer people in St. Louis.
Parker became the University’s first hospital, a place to house and care for patients who could be treated by students, faculty and staff that were right next door.
In 1923, Noyes Hospital, second in line to be called “University Hospital,” opened next door to Parker Hospital a little further south on Sixth, making an extension of sorts into one, (but larger) medical oasis.
In the expanding yet turbulent times that followed, (mid-1920‘s to mid-‘50s) Noyes became the building where many of our readers were born, (unless Boone County Hospital became your birthing place of choice.)
Incidentally, all four buildings—McAlester, Parker, Noyes and the original county hospital—are all still standing, as active players in the pursuit of good medicine.
During the economic boom following The Great Depression and end of World War II, Boone County’s contribution to medicine not only grew, a strong bond emerged among the physicians and administrators at both institutions. This “town and gown” attitude remained in place for many years, with nary a hint of jealousy or overt criticism. Later, after the new (and present) University Hospital was opened in 1956, and as our town continued to bust at the seams, that relationship diminished to a degree, due to people’s comings and goings.
Still, progress continued with few setbacks. And to support these two medical Mecca’s, endeavors such as the nursing program, VA hospital, purchase and upgrade (by Mizzou) of Columbia Regional and Ellis Fischel hospitals—and the university’s magnificent research reactor all became reality, starting in the 1960’s.
Today Boone Hospital Center and the University of Missouri Hospitals & Clinics (though many still refer to it as “The Med Center”) continue to prosper. One can only imagine what those 19th century pioneering med students and the townspeople who gathered on that cold December day 90 years ago to see what the citizens of Columbia and Boone County had done for them might think if they could see we have today.
I was born at the second of the four University Hospitals: Noyes. The doctor who delivered me was Dan Stine.
How about you?