UCLA Spotlight


School of Medicine 50th Anniversary

  • By Roxane Moster, Greg Helfand
  • Published Sep 1, 2001 8:00 AM

A 50th birthday can cause a fair amount of anxiety. But at UCLA's School of Medicine, turning 50 is purely a cause for celebration.

"UCLA has had an amazing history, perhaps most notable for its unusually fast rise from its opening to a position of national leadership," says Dr. Gerald Levey, dean of the school and provost of medical sciences. "Our founders had the daring to envision a great institution. The entrepreneurial spirit they instilled in UCLA's School of Medicine remains and thrives to this day."

The UCLA School of Medicine held its first classes in 1951. There were no advanced research facilities; scientists worked in temporary Quonset huts scattered around the campus. There was no hospital, only a giant hole in the ground where UCLA Medical Center now stands.

It was a time when diagnostic tools were limited to stethoscopes and crude X-ray machines. Only limited treatments were available. There were no CTs, no MRIs, no nuclear imaging systems, no ultrasound technology. There were antibiotics, but nothing like the broad choices now available.

It was a different world for medical students, as well. For example, the first class of UCLA medical students included only two female enrollees. This year's class will include 89 women, more than half the class total. In 1951 the cost of medical tuition for one year was $320. In 2001 the cost of medical tuition runs just over $10,000 for the first year. In 1951 the most common treatment for congenital heart failure was bed rest. In 2001 the condition is treated with a combined drug regimen, diet management and exercise/conditioning program or even heart transplantation.

In 1951, $200,000 was awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in support of research for the entire UCLA campus. In 2000, $182.6 million was awarded to UCLA's School of Medicine alone for medical research, ranking UCLA seventh in the nation in NIH medical research funding.

In just 50 years, UCLA's School of Medicine has joined the ranks of the nation's elite medical schools. During a period of revolutionary change in biomedical research and patient care, the school has quickly moved to the forefront of academic medicine and discovery. It is now mentioned in the same breath with the small group of institutions known as the best in the world — keeping company with institutions at least twice UCLA's age.

Levey notes, "UCLA researchers and clinicians have broken ground in every field of medicine and biomedicine. No one could have predicted the changes we have seen over the school's history. With accomplishments spanning every discipline, from pediatrics to neurosurgery, from genetics to PET scanning, the UCLA School of Medicine has every reason to celebrate."