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University of Colorado Medical School records

Identifier: COU:3056

Scope and Contents

The University of Colorado Medical School records contains records and administrative papers. The records and papers cover more than 100 years of history at the Medical School. There are detailed records and photographss of the University of Colorado’s involvement in World War I and World War II. The papers cover the schools role in creating the 29th Military Hospital, which was critical in treating allied soldiers. Series 2 of the collection chronicles the office of several important Deans and Chancellors of the Medical Center. One such Dean was Dr. Ward Darley. His involvement in the school created a new educational atmosphere and style of teaching. Other notable administrators in the collection are Wolcott, Farrand, and Norlin.

Series 2 and 3 of the collection contains an ample amount of fiscal budget information, administrative minutes, and correspondence. Most of the paperwork chronicles day to day operations of the Medical Center and their continuing financial difficulaties. The correspondence contains information from the office of the President/Dean. Also, there is some correspondence that was sent and received from the 29th Military Hospital during WWI and WWII. Finally, the minutes mostly come from the medical staff at the General Hospital and account for much of the operations there.

A portion of the collection has information on the Medical Center's departments and courses. The departmental information is focused on the Pathology, Pharmacology, Psychiatric, Biophysics, and OB/GYN branches of the school. This portion of the collection also contains information on the Intern and Resident Training Program for CU. Along with the Medical School, there is history on the start of the Nursing and Dental School. Finally, there are about 10 years worth of course books that have class offerings from the 1980s. The course books are not extensive to the class history at CU Medical Center, but offer insight into what students would take there.

The last part of the collection contains many studies and publications from the history of the Medical School/Medical Center. In the early years of the Medical Center, the university vested a lot of time in care for the indigent. There are reports and studies talking about the proper care of indigent patients and chronic illness treatment. In addition, there are reports and surveys on the future of medicine, education, and curriculum for medical students. Finally, this section of the collection contains reports and surveys on the Medical Center Master Plan, fiscal information, Engineering information, and proposed buildings for the center.


  • 1892 - 1993

Biographical / Historical

The University of Colorado Medical School was started in 1883 on the Boulder campus. The medical school has changed names numerous times. It has gone by The University of Colorado Medical School in 1883, The University of Colorado Medical Center in 1945, The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (UCHSC) in 1960s, and finally the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in 2004.

It began its first session with two students and one faculty member, Dr. Joseph Sewall who founded the medical school. Shortly after its opening, the school suffered from lack of funds. The Regents and Dr. Sewell relied on the Colorado Mill Levy to provide finances for the Medical School. In an attempt to increase funding and attendance, the school opened a new building in Denver. The school continued to struggle financially and Dr. Sewall resigned as the head of the program due to mismanagement. In 1892, The Regents wanted to extend the school from a three year degree to a full four years. Two years of the program were taught in Boulder, and the next two years in Denver.

The University of Denver Medical School felt it was a detriment to their enrollment to have two schools in close proximity. The Denver school won a State Supreme Court ruling in 1897 sending the University of Colorado back to the Boulder campus. The Regents recognized the need for a better facility in Boulder and updated the medical school to accommodate all four years of schooling and built a three-story teaching hospital adjacent to the campus in 1898. Though at first they resisted merging, eventually the Gross Medical school and the Denver medical school merged campuses in Denver. The University of Colorado Medical School supported a bill that would allow them to operate in Denver alongside the other medical school. The Denver/Gross school continued to resist CU moving their medical school to Denver until Dr. Abraham Flexner compared the two schools and found that the CU school superior. This resulted in initial talks led by the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association on the convergence of the two schools.

In 1908, Dr. W. A. Jayne was elected Dean of the Denver/Gross Medical College and accepted the office on a condition that he could attempt to consolidate his school with the University of Colorado. Negotiations between committees from the medical schools commenced and they reached an in June 1910. The three consolidated schools became operative in January 1911. The three schools have been functioning under the University of Colorado in Denver ever since. At this time the school moved to 13th Avenue and Welton in Denver and was there for 13 years.

During World War I, the school was led by Dr. Livingston Farrand, and in 1917 he committed the university to the war effort and then left the school for a medical mission for allied soldiers in Paris. The University of Colorado Boulder was run by interim president, George Norlin. President Norlin furthered CU’s war effort by encouraging students to join the Red Cross, and he transformed the campus in to an ROTC Camp. CU also contributed to the WWI effort abroad by shortening nursing and medical degrees. The reduced time allowed the University of Colorado to produce more physicians to send overseas. CU assembled the 29th Hospital Unit, and it was composed of members of the General Hospital staff. The unit mobilized to the war front just after a few months of training.

The school saw increased enrollment due to the War and in 1922, a larger facility and an updated hospital were constructed. The Medical School, General Hospital, Psychopathic Hospital, and Nursing Residence Hall were all built on Colorado and 9th Street. As World War I ended, the University of Colorado Medical School began to refocus its efforts at home. In the mid 1920’s, the Senate’s General Assembly passed three bills for funding that helped maintain the new facilities. The stipulation to these bills was that the Medical School must remain in Denver and work primarily with indigent patients. During this time, a petition passed to move all four years of schooling to the Denver campus.

Even with the state government’s support, the medical school struggled financially throughout the 1930’s. There was not enough funding to purchase all the needed equipment and supplies. The Dean, Maurice Rees, threatened to close down a wing of the hospital until there were sufficient funds. In 1936, a coalition between the Medical School and Denver General was established. The senior students would work under the hospital staff for their final year of training, which lent help to the understaffed hospital.

As with WWI, the university helped during World War II. The campus expanded to accommodate the Army ROTC unit and a Navy ROTC unit. Also, the Medical Center increased the number of nursing and medical students to provide more medical support overseas in the Army Specialized Training Program. It trained over 115 Army medical officers for duty. The largest contribution from the school came with the revival of the 29th Hospital Unit. This time the unit was stationed in the South Pacific.

In 1947, Dr. Ward Darley took over the Deanship of the University of Colorado Medical Campus. At the same time the regents voted him in, they also voted the campus be changed to the University of Colorado Medical Center. This is because the center included the Medical School, Nursing School, General Hospital, and Psychopathic Hospital. Darley’s title became Director of the Medical Center. Only two short years later, Darley was named Vice-President of the University as well as Director of the Medical Center.

Darley was crucial in changing the curriculum at the Medical School. He gained national acclaim when he altered the program to help state and regional medical needs. The new curriculum addressed the challenges of preventative medicine and emphasized the training of general practitioners. The center devoted its attention to cutting edge research throughout the 1940’s. The school focused its efforts on heart disease, cancer, tuberculosis, premature infants, and industrial hygiene. The hospital also increased its size, which expanded its patient capacity by 50%. Because of the growth, the medical school entered into an agreement with Denver General Hospital to take over care of their patients. The school used the patients in its teaching and research program.

In 1951, The Medical Center created a clinic that devoted itself to the care of the indigent. The program assigned junior and senior students, overseen by residents and interns, to care for patients. They were linked to the patient and their family for one to three years. The family doctor concept responded to the university’s desire to provide doctors that supported the Colorado community. This venture was paid for by the university and city of Denver in a $265,000 gift to the clinic.

In the early 1950’s, the Florence R. Sabin building for cellular biology research opened. The technology and equipment installed gave doctors and researches tools to research cancer. In 1954, Ward Darley was appointed head of the university and the medical center received a new director, Dr. Francis Manlove. Manlove suggested a plan to fix the financial difficulties of the school by admitting private patients to the hospital. Until this point, the hospital was exclusive to indigents. This caused the medical school to be accused of encouraging socialized medicine. Though The Regents agreed that certain private patients with specific illnesses would be admitted, a bill to the state government to accept private patients met resistance and was opposed by vote in the Colorado House in 1955. President Manlove resigned in 1957.

During the 1960’s, Quigg Newton took over as Director of the Medical Center and restructured the administration. The Medical Center became independent of the CU Boulder administration. This along with a 20 million dollar expansion of the facilities seemed to improve longstanding financial problems of the Medical Center. In the 1960s, the center had grown in size by almost 70%. The regents enlisted the help of the design team of Schmidt, Garden, and Erikson to design the “Master Plan” for the Medical Center. It consisted of six parts: A new 405 bed hospital and out-patient department to replace the Colorado General; expanded teaching and research space for the Medical School; adequate quarters for the school of Nursing; a school of Dentistry; expansion of the medical library; and animal quarters.

The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (UCHSC) became the new name for the Medical Center in the early 1960’s. Starting in the 1960s through the 1990s the Health Science Center achieved groundbreaking advancements in medical technology and procedures. It was the first hospital to successfully transplant a liver 1963. It was also involved in creating vaccines for influenza and small pox in the 1970s and 1980s. The center was the first in fetal cell transplant in Parkinson’s disease research in 1988 among other achievements.

In 1995, Fitzsimons Army Base was added to the Base Realignment and Closure list. Members of the Health Sciences Center, University of Colorado Hospital and the City of Aurora presented an innovative proposal to the Department of Defense. The proposal wanted to take the decommissioned base and build a state-of-the-art healthcare facility. The grounds were across from the Colorado Bioscience Park in Aurora. In 2004, The University of Colorado at Denver and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center merged to create the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center (UCDHSC).


17.52 linear feet (42 document boxes)

Language of Materials



The University of Colorado Medical School/Medical Center Collection contains materials related to the University of Colorado Medical School’s establishment, operations, administration and history. The collection has correspondence, books, budgets, and records on the over 100 year history of the school. It also has photos and records on the school’s involvement in World War I and World War II. There are also records of CU Medical School’s realignment into the Medical Center and eventual establishment as the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center. The University Hospital also has records on its operations and specific wards. The collection has files and papers on several Deans and Chancellors throughout the school’s history. Student and Staff records, along with CU studies and publications are included in the collection. Finally, the collection contains information about Departments and Course Offerings from the Medical School.

Related Materials

This collection is related the Gross/Denver Medical School records, COU:2832.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States