At the request of the Medical Society of South Carolina, the General Assembly established the Medical College of South Carolina in December 1823. The school opened the following November. The faculty of six physicians offered two courses of lectures leading to the M.D. degree. From 1824 until 1913 the school received no state funding. Students purchased tickets to lectures and paid laboratory fees. The faculty maintained private practices in addition to their teaching duties. From 1823 to 1861 the school rose to national prominence. A building was constructed in 1826 on the corner of Queen and Franklin Streets adjacent to the Marine Hospital and City Hospital. Roper Hospital, built in the 1850s, was also next to the Medical College building. These facilities served as teaching hospitals for the college.
In 1832 the first town/gown discord occurred when the faculty and the Medical Society disagreed on management of the school. The faculty resigned as a body and applied to the General Assembly for a charter for the Medical College of the State of South Carolina. The factions reconciled in 1839, and the faculty moved back into the society building, but the school retained the newer name of the Medical College of the State of South Carolina. The school closed during the Civil War, and afterward the faculty struggled with little money or other resources. There was also competition from a new medical school established in 1866 at South Carolina College in Columbia. To keep the Medical College going, the faculty abolished fees and made it a free school underwritten by the faculty and trustees.
A pharmacy program began in 1881, with the first students admitted in 1882. It lasted just two years but was reactivated as the School of Pharmacy in 1894. A nursing program began as the School of Nursing of City Hospital in 1883, with the first students accepted in 1884. Roper Hospital oversaw the School of Nursing from 1904 until 1919, when it was merged with the Medical College. The faculty voted to admit women medical students in 1895. They were first accepted in 1897 and graduated in 1901.
In 1913 Dean Robert Wilson, head of the Medical College from 1908 to 1943, campaigned for state ownership of the Medical College, whereby the state would assume some financial responsibility for the institution. This followed the 1910 publication of the “Flexner Report,” which was highly critical of the Medical College despite its students’ high pass rates on state board examinations. State ownership was attained in 1914. The school moved to a new building, built with funds raised by the Charleston community, on a new campus at Calhoun and Lucas Streets across from Roper Hospital.
An allied health program in medical technology began in the late 1920s, and the first full-time faculty was hired in 1937. Kenneth M. Lynch led the school from 1943 to 1960. The School of Graduate Studies began in 1949, and in 1952 the name changed back to Medical College of South Carolina. A second town/gown flap occurred when Lynch decided that the school should have its own teaching hospital. This was a national trend, but Lynch’s proposal was not well received by the Medical Society of South Carolina, which opposed separating the college from its dependence on Roper Hospital. The Medical College Hospital opened in September 1955. A School of Dental Medicine was approved by the General Assembly in 1953, but with no funding. The first students were not accepted until 1967 and graduated in 1971. The School of Allied Health Sciences was created in 1966, consolidating a group of programs. In 1969 the college combined all the school programs into six colleges to become the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
The seventeen-year leadership of James B. Edwards, former governor and former U.S. secretary of energy, saw major growth in endowment and research programs. A third town/gown dispute occurred in the 1990s concerning the proposed management of the teaching hospital by Columbia/HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) Health Care Corporation, a for-profit corporation. By 2000 MUSC had a budget of more than $950 million and six colleges. The institution was widely acknowledged as a major academic health care center, maintaining its commitment to health sciences education, research, and patient care.
Archives of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. Medical Society of South Carolina. Minutes (1789–1986). Waring Historical Library, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
Waring, Joseph I. A History of Medicine in South Carolina. 3 vols. Columbia: South Carolina Medical Association, 1964–1971.
Worthington, W. Curtis, H. Rawling Pratt-Thomas, and Warren A. Sawyer. A Family Album: Men Who Made the Medical Center. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1991.